I’m having a crisis of faith. Not to worry. My faith crises are getting shorter as the years go on, a couple of days, maybe -a couple of hours more likely. This one was spurred on yesterday when I was talking to a woman – let’s call her Sally – who has some serious practical needs, like a place to live by January 1 that is safe and clean and a job to pay her bills. I told her to call this other friend of her’s – let’s call her Ruth – to pray about it. “She has that kind of faith to ask God for specifics,” I said.
“Don’t you have that kind of faith?” she asked me. That is when the crisis started.
“No,” I said. “I guess I am used to letting God do whatever is best and I pray to be able to accept that.” Then I added, “But some people, like Ruth, pray for specific needs to be met and they often have very impressive results. Better to ask them to pray for you in a situation like this.”
I set a timer when I pray so I am sure to give God the time to speak to me if he has anything to say. This morning was a little weird. I couldn’t even imagine God. In my younger days God was either the great bearded kind grandfather in the sky or Jesus sitting under a tree. In more recent years, God is Love or Life or the Source of these. God is no longer out there where the pronoun “You” seems appropriate, but is everywhere including inside me and “You” feels kind of silly. Thoughts of what I’d said to the woman troubled me as I sat.
I remember once when my son was in his teens saying something strange but interesting. I think he was talking about heaven when he said, “Maybe what people believe…that is what is for them.” He probably won’t remember this, by the way. I remember because it seemed to me such a profound thing to say. This morning I thought, “What if this were true, not just in people’s thoughts about what heaven is like, but in their conceptions of God?” Could it be possible He, or God, is whatever we make him to be –  an “all things to all people” kind of God? That sounded pretty absurd to me. We can have thoughts about God, some might be true, some not. But God just Is, right? I think that is the essence of Job’s experience. “Stop trying to figure God out…your brain is too small.”
Back to what I told Sally. I guess I don’t want to go around pooh-poohing other people’s faith. I rather like the idea that God might honor a faith that asks for specifics. I don’t really want to attribute that to coincidence. And I don’t want to diminish it by calling it childish implying that my faith is more mature. I do know that when I have prayed for specific outcomes, I haven’t usually gotten the results I desired. At least, I don’t see them come about in my time frame, which might be my problem.
Maybe God isn’t so much “all things to all people”, but rather, God likes people praying , period, and if it is for others – all the better. . My mother used to say, “Prayer changes the pray-er.” Looking at it this way, if it takes answering specific prayers to keep people praying, then God does that. If it takes surrender to the “whatever” of God’s engagement in our lives to keep people praying, then God honors that.
Not to worry. I won’t stop praying…and no matter how you pray, keep doing it.
And if you are one who believes God answers specific requests, please pray for my friend Sally.

4 thoughts on “Praying”

  1. I lean toward the “whatever” prayer. Then again, I teach my kids to ask for specifics. Grr…your post is sending me into a crisis.

    You’re right, I don’t remember saying that as a kid. Chalk this up as one of your best posts.

  2. A few months after a friend lost her son (suicide), she told me, “I knew God is love; now I know that GOOD IS GOD”. Maybe it is that simple!
    I’d like to chat with you sometime about prayer.

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