prayer shmayer

I don't believe in prayer in the same way I used to. It's been difficult for me to articulate this shift, but I thought I'd give it a shot. Some mindsets about prayer drive me crazy. I've been known to be critical of books like The Power of a Praying Codependent. But for me, I think two underlying movements have landed me in this new place.

The first is that I'm done with God as Santa Claus, God as Fairy Godmother, God as Genie-in-the-Bottle. The ways I used to pray for people and things felt a lot like that to me. Like a wish list. Like trying to use God by saying it with the right faith, the right words, the right scripture to make the spell work. Looking back I see the line between faith and superstition got very blurred.

Then there's the on-going wrestling match between my desire for mercy and my desire for justice, so in most situations I don't even know what outcome to ask for. It's complicated. Sheldon Vanauken wrote one of my favorite books called A Severe Mercy. The title alone is so profound to me because I don't think that mercy always looks the way we expect it to, like something out of a dryer sheet commercial. Sometimes God's mercy is severe, and that doesn't make it any less merciful or any less loving. I think in our interactions with each other we think that only things that first appear loving really are so. The concept of "tough love" seems to have died with the eighties.

So for me, prayer falls into two categories these days. The first is centering prayer, just consciously resting in and getting present to the presence of God. The expression of, "Be still and know that I am God". The second is the kind that everyone does, even those of us without any defined sense of faith or belief. The groaning that rises from your gut, "Oh, God, help." Those are my forms, at least for now. The whole concept of a prayer warrior seems to have been replaced by a prayer groaner. For whatever reason, that's all I can believe in right now.