Friday, November 9, 2007


My friend Nonessential Equipments posted a cutting indictment against the religious, which she entitled "Good Old-Fashioned Christian Values."

She doesn't say a word against Christians, mind you, she reports a conversation overheard in which a so-called Christian [quote-unquote] is annoyed at "having" to pray for someone who doesn't go to her church and might not even be a Christian. Like I said, it's a scathing indictment, because I have heard so many similar conversations and suspect that many people who might not actually say this, do think it, completely blinded to how UNchristian the sentiment proves itself.

The problem is that so many "christian" "churches" have turned prayer, worship, study, meditation, etc. into events; something you do or schedule, rather than forming part of your life. So we get prayer requests that are not based on any actual relationship, but which are instead based on a sense of obligation, offered in a performance spirit. By that, I mean that people seem to try and outdo one another coming up with people and/or maladies, tragedies, and other assorted travesties to pray for. I learned long ago not to bother with trying to keep up with supposed requests for prayer that did not resonate with me. I refuse even to write them down. If my heart is right about it, I'll remember without having to make a list and check it twice.

Further to my last posting, I actually read Matthew 6 this morning, and (besides ordering no worrying) it also talks about 'not doing your good works before men', to include giving and praying.

Elsewhere, I recall that it says that "God loves a cheerful giver." I think we might extrapolate the concept to include prayer. I shudder to think of grudging prayers under a spirit of compulsion. . . .

Now, if I can only stop worrying about what people will think of me because I don't play along with the pious prayer-"warrior" part. . . . (And actually, that's one of the reasons I don't write "prayer requests" down anymore. I found I cared too much what other people thought, and too little about what I was thereby implying: namely that I was going to be praying for all these people I'd never heard of.)

Every now and again, I do feel moved to pray for people I don't know. But generally I find it a whole lot easier to pray for those I do know, for help in circumstances I'm aware of, involving other people I might even know. You know what? If we all pray for those we know, who we know are having a hard time, maybe everything that needs to be prayed for will get prayed for. I can't help but think of Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves To Death - in which Postman (among other things) points out the deadening effect of reporting as unconnected "news", events from the other side of the world, which we have no hope or expectation of being involved with. It accustoms us to seeing events that seem to require action, but which we are too far away to do anything about. We get to the point where we learn not to do anything even where we could do something.

So: to the ungracious "Christian" who doesn't want to "have to pray for 'R' " (who has a lump in her breast): by all means, don't pray. In fact, maybe you should slow down on all the prayer stuff for a while. Maybe God will help you, and eventually give you something you really want to pray for, so you can learn all about it.

Unfortunately, those lessons are expensive. . . .



Lee Anne said...

I, too, have heard this type of conversation many times. I was raised Southern Baptist, and there seemed to be a kind of glee in other people's misfortunes. Some of these people were like ambulance chasers.

But, then there's my grandmother who gathers prayer lists from all the churches in the county and volunteers for hospice. She prays and writes cards because she knows the heartache of losing a husband to cancer and remarrying a man living with cancer.

It's the empathy that's lost when we make prayer an event. Thoughtful, well-written post.

prophet said...

Thank God I also know people like your grandmother. . . . people for whom prayer seems like breathing. She sounds like quite a woman.

Isn't it wierd that it can be so easy to tell the difference, but so difficult to prove it? It's all a matter of the heart, I guess, and none of us really knows questions of the heart for sure.