Asking for It

DSC00181Last week, an interesting topic showed up in my Morning Pages … two pages written without a topic or direction in mind.  Whatever comes into the head goes onto the paper … or at least that’s the plan.  While it’s easy to daydream and stop writing or to censor myself, after over fifteen years of MPs, I can usually let the words flow. The point is that starting without a topic allows unexpected topics to show up.  This week’s topic involved prayer, specifically whether we should ask God for specific things when we pray.  Looking (way) back, the childhood prayer my mother taught me went something like this: God bless Mommy and Daddy, Glenn and Patti, Nanny and Grampa, Gramma and all my aunts and uncles.  Please make me a good boy.  Amen.  I grew up on the Lord’s Prayer in which we get to ask for our daily bread, the rest being about asking for God’s forgiveness and being delivered from evil.   Sixty years later, I try to pray according to the 11th Step:  Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for His will for us and the power to carry it out.  So, for all the spiritual sturm und drang that went on in those sixty years, it seems not much has changed in my prayers.

There are, of course, exceptions, the most notable being when a loved one is gravelly ill.  I have been most specific in my requests to God in these situations.  Sometimes the person gets better, others not.  When they do, has God answered my prayer or did I just pray for what God was going to do anyway?  When someone in my life seems to have lost his way, I pray for them, but I usually just say, God, please lead him along the path You’d have him follow.   Oh, I certainly know what I think is the best path for the someone in my life and if I do, I assume God knows what I want.   When the somebody in my life continues to make questionable choices, is God ignoring me?  Or is the somebody just exercising their God-given free will?  In the circles I travel, someone is likely to say God can give three answers to our prayers, Yes, no and maybe.  Others paraphrase Morgan Freeman as God in Bruce Almighty: Since when do people know what’s best for themselves?  Simple … if not entirely satisfactory … explanations for a simple faith.  Those with a more traditional faith sometimes require longer answers, like this one.  Longer but even less satisfactory to this simple spiritual mind.

Anyway, back to the question that showed up in my journal: Should we ask God specifically for things that we want?  I know that not asking for specific things in prayer is a way of protecting my faith.  My inner scientist has a tendency to keep count of answered and unanswered prayers, an answered prayer being a vote for God and an unanswered prayer a vote against.  My Inner Scientist isn’t in charge of things around here the way he used to be but he can be quite persistent.   Still, I’ve read in many places that God speaks to us through our desires, at least some of them.  So, am I being true to my heart by ignoring these desires in my prayers?   I found a quote by evangelist Rosilind Rinker on Beliefnet that I like:

God speaks to us through our desires.
Then as we lay them at his feet, he helps us sort them out
and quiets our hearts to accept what he has already prepared.

Yes, my Inner Scientist can argue with the choice of words (and scream, You’re going to listen to an evangelist?).  But if I dispense with a few male pronouns and replace what he has already prepared with those that are God’s will, it makes a lot of sense … and my Inner Scientist can live with it.  So, for the time being, I’m going to pray differently.  My prayers will be a lot more specific … with according to Your will dispersed strategically throughout. Will God do anything differently? I’d guess not but who’s to say.

Have a hopeful Sunday.

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2 Comments on “Asking for It”

  1. cherperz Says:

    I think there was a time that I might of prayed for things for me…especially as a child. Now, I figure I have had a good life….I don’t need or want much. The things I want are intangible like, stronger faith, less doubt, better insight. Oh, and I pray a lot for my family to be safe and make good choices.

    Maybe all of that would change is I met with some type of personal crisis, but it’s hard to ask for more when life is pretty steady in a world where others face real hardships.

    Quite awhile ago, I was talking to a minister and he was saying that we have to remember that prayer isn’t like rubbing a rabbit’s foot or kissing dice before you toss them. Asking for a lottery win or some other stroke of luck is greed. If prayer isn’t coming from a generous spirit or a sincere concern, how could it be prayer? Wouldn’t it just be a wish?

    • oldereyes Says:

      “I pray a lot for my family to be safe and make good choices.” Yes, me, too. Many of my prayers are of that variety, too. I can’t remember praying for something tangible because, like you, we are pretty comfortable. What got me on this course of thought is thinking about dreams. It’s easy at sixty-nine to think that dreams are for younger people. Dreams like “doing something with my writing.” So, putting things like that in my prayers is a way to acknowledge that I still have dreams.

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