Friday, September 23, 2005

87. prayer

I've been in an odd state of mind lately (see blog 86 for an example) and the one thing that's been happening as a result is that I'm praying a lot more. Now this sounds noble and spiritual and all, but that's not the kind of praying I practice. My prayers are more akin to a bitch session where I whine and pout and complain about how wrong everything seems to be going in my life.

Here are some of the prayers that have been making the rounds lately:

1. Lord, I'm tired of being lonely and frustrated.
2. Lord, there's this space inside me that's empty and I want to fill it with my love for this woman but she has no idea and I have no idea if I even have a chance or even if she's right for me (or me for her). So I ask you to fill this hole with your love and your presence instead.
3. Lord, the world is so screwed up. Everywhere you look it's just problem upon conflict upon corruption upon greed upon selfish stupidity. It's everywhere from the back of the welfare line to the tops of multi-national corporations and at every level in between. And your church, your people, and I aren't doing any better. I don't know how you keep yourself from rubbing us out like cockroaches.
4. Dear Lord, where's my harvest? I'm no Mother Teresa but I've done my share of work - work that has benefited others, often working for free. I sow and I sow but nothing seems to grow. My fields are empty. There's nothing in the storehouse. All that work seems to vanish into thin air. It feels like all I do is tend the greener grass on the other side then return home to my famished, empty wasteland.
5. Dear Lord, I want to glorify you through my life but I don't know how to do that without sensing, knowing, experiencing your joy and your love.

And so I pray. And I wait. And I listen. And I wait.

Some might ask why I pray if this is the case. I guess I pray because there's nothing else to call upon. I pray because if I don't, I have these maddening imaginary conversations with this woman I'm attracted to and I hate it when I do that. I pray because I know that God is listening, even if he's not answering.

Do I pray expecting an answer? That's hard to say. It's not as easy as "yes I do" or "no I don't." And I'm sure there are those who read that and think, "well there you go, Randall. You don't have enough faith." And I don't know, maybe that is the case. But what can I do? Show me a faith pill and I'll swallow it. I pray with what little faith I have and hope that it's enough. And even if it's not enough, I'm praying and that's still something isn't it?

This is a kind of prayer that I've never heard spoken about in church but I'd be willing to bet just about anything that this kind of prayer happens all the time with all kinds of Christians. And the fact that we don't talk about this kind of prayer is stupid because it used to make me feel like a shitty Christian. And I'd be willing to double my bet on the wager that there are lots of Christians out there today who feel like shitty Christians because their prayer life doesn't live up to the one they hear about from the pulpit or read about in Christian books.

So how do I reconcile this in my own prayer life? Well way back in January (back in blog 24) I wrote about an epiphany I had and it goes like this: God is God and I am not. Here's an excerpt from that blog:

"Anyway, epiphany number one has to do with the realization that God is God and I am not. I don't understand his ways but by faith, I have to believe that God is a just god and that he loves me, despite what seems like evidence to the contrary. On top of that, even if God did lead me on and left me hanging, that's his right because he is God and I am not. On top of that, even if he did those things on purpose because that was his right, he is still worthy of all the praise and honor that my body can bring - because he is God and I am not."

See, I used to feel like a shitty Christian because I thought I wasn't trying hard enough. And so I tried harder and harder and harder until I just burnt out. And after years of guilt and confusion and frustration, realizing the simple fact that God is God and he can do whatever he wants, that freed me from the broken idea that I wasn't doing enough, that not hearing or experiencing God to the degree that I wanted to was my fault.

God will reveal himself to me when the time is right. No amount of prayer or fasting or worshiping or reading the Bible can speed that along because God is God and I am not. God doesn't jump through hoops.

Anyway, that's my prayer life right now. At least it's "better" than the one Anne Lamott describes in one of her books (I'm pretty sure it was in Traveling Mercies). Lamott writes about a friend of hers who prays the same two prayers everyday. In the morning, she prays, "whatever." And then at night before sleeping she prays, "oh well."

"Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit."
Ephesians 6:18a NLT

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