Praying – I Have No Idea

Recently, I have been trying to become a Christian (I have been going to Church but don’t really “get” it yet). I have enjoyed a great deal about being involved with the Church and I have met some lovely people (far less freaky than I anticipated) – but I stumble a bit when it comes to praying.

I try to pray but it is really confusing. I mean I get the bit where I am openly thankful for the good things I have in my life but what then? I’m not supposed to ASK for things, because they might not be part of God’s Plan. Well, I can ask… But I am going to get God’s Plan anyway. I’m not supposed to tell God what to do, under any circumstances, like a natural disaster or something. Firstly, he KNOWS what to do (being God helps with that) so my suggestions are wasted. Secondly, he doesn’t need my permission to do things. Thirdly, in fact, He could be getting on with whatever was the best thing to do, if I wasn’t holding him up by talking.  So all I’m really left with is, asking God to help other people (or me) put up with what He has done – which seems a bit cheeky. I suppose if I say, “Give them the strength to endure this test Oh Lord!” it puts a more positive spin on the crappy things that are happening to people daily but it also sounds kind of like asking Him to help them cheat (when He set the exam). Oh and Asking for healing seems like it is sometimes OK, (I almost forgot) but it still seems to violate the Prime Directive. Also I’d hate to ask and then not have it work for someone – That would raise all kinds of doubts and negative emotions. Ugh.

As you can see, I’m utterly perplexed. I just stick to saying “Thanks for the good stuff and Thy Will be done”. Is that right? I don’t know.

EDIT: Oh my goodness, I forgot the whole I’m supposed to praise God bit! You see? I’m hopeless! Obviously, I do that bit. But more in Church, when the Priest is saying it and I’m joining in).

(Please tell me if including a picture obscures the text in any way, I’ve seen that happen elsewhere. Thanks!)

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27 responses to “Praying – I Have No Idea

  1. dativesingular

    I love this post on so many levels.

  2. It’s interesting seeing your exploration of your spirituality so far, and it’s really cool that you’re willing to share it.

    Actually, prayer is where I run up against my problems with religion. I mean, it seems to me that basically what it boils down to is organised grovelling. The C of E is especially bad about this; every service I’ve attended for the last few years has made great mention of folks “gathering in fear of the Lord”. Not love, mind you, not gratitude, but fear. That really doesn’t sit terribly well with me.

    In fact, it seem like an abusive relationship. God is more powerful than you, knows everything you do, say and think, knows better than you (because he’s God) and will do whatever he feels like to you because it’s in your own best interests in the long run. Oh, and you have a choice, which is to accept all of the above and be grateful for it, or spend all eternity burning in Hell, being watched by everyone who sucked up to the boss. This last seems a bit wierd too; could you honestly be happy in Paradise while being able to see the Damned suffering forever? Strikes me that the kind of people who could endure that wouldn’t be terribly nice. It’s not like suffering is doing the Damned any good – they’re stuck there forever. Where I any more cynical, I’d think it was an implicit threat to the folks in Heaven – don’t rock the boat or you know what’ll happen.

    This is, I think, my biggest problem with religion. If you take it literally, it throws up all sorts of odd inconsistencies that you’re not supposed to use your God-given intellect to question. If you take it symbollically, then it looks like a rather dodgy medieval control mechanism to keep the underclasses in line.

    I don’t have a problem with the concept of religion at all. I believe in all sorts of wierd shit, which I try to avoid pushing on other people and I’m happy for other people to believe in their own version of the Invisible Sky Daddy as long as it doesn’t impact me in any way. It’s the execution of the idea that annoys me, which is why I think I prefer the slightly wishy-washy idea of being “spiritual” rather than religious. We all have our own relationship with whatever it is that powers the universe and exists inside us. I just don’t see why we have to do it in groups.

    • Thanks for your reply! I can see exactly what you mean and I have felt lots of those things myself. But I was not enjoying being lonely and randomly spiritual. I felt I needed ritual, fellowship and a Priest who was trained to know the answers to my questions. I wanted a framework, a refuge. It is all quite strange to me (as well as everyone else).

  3. “The Prime Directive?” Ha, ha!

    I suppose you could always ask God to smite thine enemies.

  4. The praising God bit confuses me too. Why does God need me to tell Him how awesome he is? He’s omniscient – He already knows, and he already knows what you think of Him too. Is He insecure? Depressed? It doesn’t make sense. The only way it does actually make sense is as an indicator of your piety to those around you, rather than to God.

    Sigh. I actually envy those who have a robust and active faith. It must be nice to believe that there’s someone out there who has your best interests at heart and wants you to do well. My problem is that while I do believe in God (more accurately a universal creative force), I look at all the pain, suffering and injustice in the world and have a hard time accepting that It is either interested in us or particularly well-disposed to us if it’s aware we exist at all.

    • I can’t help thinking of God as British, like a giant (but moral) Hugh Grant… All floppy-haired and slightly shy at Praise, going –

      “Oh, yes, how kind of you. Haha, OK, really, there is no need to say anything else. I’m flattered but… Gosh, is that the time? I really must be running along!”.

  5. Here’s the way I have always looked at it. Some people fill prayer with way too much pomp and ceremony. Just talk to God. Thank him for what you wish to thank him for, and ask him for what you want to ask him for. I’d say focus on your NEEDS and not your WANTS. Go to him with your concerns, and say hey….this is how I’d like to see this work out, but of course you’re will be done in the end, and you get that it might not end up the way you see it, but you trust him to help it end up for the best. God helps those that help themselves, so never be afraid to ask. Asking for healing is never wrong. I know not of the prime directive to which you refer, but the greatest commandments with which I am familiar is love God with all of your being, and love your fellow man as you love yourself.

    • Thanks, that was really good to read. I’m really grateful that I met so many wonderful people on LJ.

      The prime Directive thing was a “joke” (you know me) about Star Trek : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prime_Directive

      The crew of the Enterprise are allowed to go to other places and get involved but they mustn’t use their knowledge or skills to change anything, or help anyone. Sort of. So I thought it was a bit like praying, when I know God already has a plan in action. Now watch me get hit by lightning.

  6. I’m with NCSUJ. The first disciples had the same problem, so they asked the man himself and he said “when you pray say ‘Our Father’ yada yada you know the rest”. But it’s the Our Father bit that’s important because it means you start with the relationship.

    I know, from my own and other’s experience that the ‘Father’ bit is problematic because of our experiences with our earthly fathers. It took me a long time to get beyond my own Dad’s inadequacies, so saying father is tricky, but if it helps think about another relationship that’s healthy.

    So presmuably you want to spend time with your luvly chap (;-) and sometimes you tell him trivial stuff about your day, sometimes you talk about the real deep stuff, and sometimes you just sit together in silence enjoying each other’s company. Sometimes he even tells you stuff about himself. But as you do all this your relationship grows and changes and you get to know him.

    And if you think about yourself as a parent; you have a pretty good idea what LGB gets up to at school all day, because you’re older and wiser and know it all (you’re a mother!) but doesn’t it bless your heart when he comes and sits down and tells you all his doings, figures things out for himself in front of your, shares his worries and concerns, and generally opens himself up to you. That’s how God is our heavenly parent – he loves us when we do that. Zephaniah 3 verse 17 says: ” The LORD your God is with you,
    he is mighty to save.
    He will take great delight in you,
    he will quiet you with his love,
    he will rejoice over you with singing”

    And the picture I get is of a mother rocking a child on her knee, humming little songs of comfort.

    The church stuff is for formal public doing so it has to be a bit different but the heart of prayer is the personal relationship. And as for all the stuff about how much God knows or has control over things depends on which theologian you read and that’s a whole other can of worms!!!

    Needless to say I have got all this perfectly sussed and spend hours of deep quality time communing with the Almighty…not! But I keep trying on this basis and he seems ok when I do drop by. And I agonise about the whole praying for healing, suffering thing as well.

    Also, have you read The Shack yet?

  7. I haven’t but I MUST! Ugh, I am so rubbish. I like your way of looking at things. You are always so calm and open-mined but you still sneak in verses from the Bible! Haha! I really must jump on a train and come over one Sunday, if you’ll let me.

    I like my local Priest, he is so funny. He says he can never be a Bishop, because he tried on three Mitres in a shop once (when nobody was looking) and his head is too big! Haha!

    • You’d be welcome anytime. I keep in the back of my mind an excuse to get near Manchester so I can swing by.

      I like the sound of your priest.

      • You’d love him. And come to Manchester any time you can, we’d LOVE to see you! Just think – me, Dave AND Brandon – that has GOT to be worth it!

  8. I’ve been debating on joining a churchy group myself, but I just can’t make myself do it. I believe in God, I just can’t bring myself to go to a church where the majority of the people are probably against homosexuality and abortion. Or that use the bible as a rule book.

    I try to pray every night before going to bed, thanking God for the good things and asking his help in dealing with the bad things. My God is loving and accepting and doesn’t judge people on their choices so much as the good in their heart. I see Him in everything and try and pretend that it’s all about me (when a favorite some comes on the radio, or I meet someone that helps me define myself) and it makes me feel comforted. Selfish? Maybe, but I don’t really care because it’s what makes me feel better!

    Good luck with your searching! I hope you figure it all out. :)

    • Even though the Church I go to is quite “high church” and full of elaborate worship etc. the Priest is very relaxed and they all seem quite broad-minded.

      The area the Church is in has a lot of poor, inner-city inhabitants. Most of them are Muslim anyway, so the choice of congregation is limited by that (heh). Most people who attend the Church seem to be no strangers to divorce, gayness, or illegitimacy. The Church actively engage with other religions and also have very relaxed Bible classes, where people are invited to interpret passages in their own way.

      I couldn’t stay there if they were too judgemental, or unkind.

  9. This post basically summarizes the reasons why I became an atheist. Fundamentally (ha) it all makes no freaking sense at all.

    • As if you don’t ask your cardboard cutouts of Anton LaVey and Charles Darwin for a little help now and again.

    • I’m still trying to make sense of it though. Whenever people have set up societies, anywhere in the World, there has always been a religion too. Something to satisfy their spiritual needs. Why? There must be something to it. I think.

      • Really it all takes up too much time that could be spent doing better things. The idea that there is some benevolent old chap with a beard who created the Universe, and cares about the minutiae of my day, is absurd. Particularly when he clearly ignores the murder of children in the Sudan and a 1001 other atrocities a day. However hard I’ve tried, it never makes sense.

  10. We are told to pray as if we are talking to a friend. A friend with super powers. It is okay to ask for things, just as you would ask a friend for favours.

    If you are uncomfortable with that, maybe praying to a Saint for intervention is right for you. C o E does have Saints, right? That’s what they are there for. They are God’s chosen ones and have the ability to work for you on his behalf.

    I have 3 Saints I pray to: St. Christopher to protect me and my loved ones in our travels, St. Francis to protect the animals, and St. Cecelia to bring music and beauty into my life.

    • The C of E isn’t as keen on Saints as Roman Catholics are, but Dave’s Mum was Catholic and when she died she left me her plaster St. Jude. He is the Saint of seemingly hopeless causes. She kept him on her bedroom window-sill, looking out, because she said her battle with cancer wasn’t hopeless and there were people out there who needed him more than she did. Now I have him and I’ve kept him in the same place. I’m also honoured to own her rosary (but we don’t use them in my Church).

      I can pray to God, I just felt unsure as to what I should say/ask for. I suppose that is between me and God? In the end, that seems to be the answer.

      Your choice of Saints sounds very wise. I also like Green Tara, the Buddhist bodhisattva – she is kind of a Saint. I’m not sure how well they mix though. ;)

  11. You’re so cute. :) Can I ask, why you think you want to be a Christian?

    I’ve been one for close to 40 years now. All I can share with you is what I’ve learned myself, but I think those things are more personal and better addressed in email, if you were interested, or had any questions about it. :)

    As for prayer, keep this in mind – it’s less for
    God and more for you, to help you feel closer to Him. So, pray whatever is on your heart, all you’re doing is having a conversation and even though He already knows what you’re going to say, YOU don’t, and sometimes just talking things through with Him will give you an insight or understanding, or comfort you didn’t have before. :) Does that help?

    • I suppose I have been on a spiritual quest for some years, and recently my need to express that in a regular and shared way has become intense. I’d liken it to hunger, thirst, or the broody urge one gets to have children.

      Where I live I am surrounded by Muslims, who attend Mosque and dress accordingly. I admire the way they follow the religion they were raised in, and it started me thinking about my own Christian roots.

      Well, I say Christian but my parents didn’t attend Church, or bring me up to study the Bible. My Mum had been a Methodist Sunday School teacher but she didn’t believe and stopped going to Church as soon as she was married. I never heard my Dad say anything religious until he knew he was dying with cancer – and then he had a long chat with the Vicar who eventually presided over his funeral.

      I saw the comfort that Dave’s Mum got from being Catholic, as she died, and frankly I got comfort from that too. So here I am, seeking (as I think it is called).

      What you say about prayer really DOES help and make sense. Thank you. x

  12. It may sound a little dummy, but what really works is to call upon Jesus and tell him exactly how you feel.

    I was in church for many years, and “knew a great deal about the bible.” I remember that my pastor told me once, that I was an elderly of the church to my surprise. And even after that, at one point, I found myself struggling and I said in my heart, I need Jesus.

    And I started surfing the web about Jesus. I subscribed to newsgroups about Jesus. And all I found were people denying of God and cursing. I started talking to them. All the words were coming back to me.

    The greatest thing happened to me. The Lord started working with me. I never felt him so close. My prays were answered, I changed. Everything changed. My way to see things.

    I learned that I would never be the same. I started seeing things differently, feeling more compassion, caring more about others.

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