Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain

Got Ten Cents?

22 Comments

In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.   John 16:23-24 (NIV)



You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.   James 4:2-3  (NIV)


I was driving by this church marquee in my hometown and couldn’t help but wonder, what exactly is a million dollar answer?  What exactly is a ten cent prayer?  Oh, don’t get me wrong, I get the gist of this sign.  Don’t throw up a half-hearted prayer and think you’re going to get a miraculous answer.  But really, who has given a half-hearted prayer and waited in eager anticipation for it’s answer?  Who I ask?  No one.  That’s who.

Allow me to elaborate.  I’ve thrown up some of those half-hearted prayers.  Heck, you might even call them penny prayers.  I didn’t really expect an answer.   You know what?  It was those penny prayers that most often seemed to be answered.  “Lord, I know I’m pushing it to get to work on time.  Please let all the lights be green between here and work.”  “Lord, let there be a parking spot close to the door at Wal-Mart”, on Saturday afternoon at 4:00 p.m.  “Lord, I’m almost out of gas.  Please help me make it to the gas station before I run out.”

It’s the prayers that I really thought long and hard about, the ones I was just certain I was asking with the right motives, the ones I knew from reading the Bible were clearly in God’s will that I waited expectantly for an answer to.  Those million dollar prayers that got ten cent answers.  Then that would get explained away.  God’s answer was no, and I didn’t like it.  I must have some sin in my life.  I must be asking with the wrong motives.  “Lord, we’re having a terrible drought.  All the farmers will lose their crops, wells may run dry.  We really need some rain.”  Of course if you ask for that long enough it’s bound to rain, and thank God for it.  Never mind all the burned up crops, the dead fish and other animals, the wild fires, people suffering from a shortage of water.  Thank God for that three drops of rain we got.

You live and learn.  Sooner or later you might acknowledge that God has no control over the rain or much of anything else for that matter.  “Ask anything in my name and you will receive it.”  Then when we pray expectantly we’re told God doesn’t impinge free will.  We’re told God doesn’t interfere in the laws of nature.  That would just mess things up.  So the deists weren’t that far off then, eh?  God started this whole shindig and then just stepped back to watch it unfold.  He’s impotent.  Bound by his own laws.  So much for sovereignty.  So long omnipotence.  If there is a God he can’t or won’t help us.  We’re on our own.

I’m not sure which is worse; that God can’t help us or that God won’t help us.  On the one hand He’s bound by His own laws and can’t disturb the natural flow of things.  Praying to that kind of God serves no purpose.  But we’re told that “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)  What does it effect?  Certainly not anything outwardly.  On the other hand God could possibly be this omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient  entity who has simply chosen whom he will hear and whom he will ignore arbitrarily.  Either way it seems like a waste of time asking for anything of God.  I’m better off keeping my ten cents.

Some have reduced the act of prayer to simply having fellowship with this invisible being who doesn’t speak back except through a book.  It’s only a way to commune with our “creator”.  Is that all he is?  Is that all he’s done?  Ask any child who has been birthed and left on their own how much they think of the one/ones who brought them into the world and see what answer you get.  Better yet, ask that same one how loved they feel by their “parents” and see what answer you get.

Better still is the “prayer isn’t about changing others or the world around us, it’s about changing our own hearts”.  Hmm…any type of meditation will do that.  It’s about getting alone with your thoughts in a quiet and peaceful setting.  It’s not the particular object of the meditation that is important.  It’s the focused energy, the stress reduction, the self-regulation that are important.  •”[M]editation refers to a family of self-regulation practices that focus on training attention and awareness in order to bring mental processes under greater voluntary control and thereby foster general mental well-being and development and/or specific capacities such as calm, clarity, and concentration”[48]:228-9 
 
I think I’ll meditate for awhile and take two aspirin. It seems about as effective. It appears God has taken an extended leave of absence or he just isn’t there. That’s just my ten cents worth.

Advertisements

22 thoughts on “Got Ten Cents?

  1. I'll add my two cents because I'm too poor to pay attention… ;-)Good post on the oddities of prayer. When you lay it all out, there's just no good answer to how it works, if it works.Does God know all? Yes, which would include what you desire, so why ask?Can you change God's mind? No. (Even though Moses did)If prayers are only granted which are in God's will, meaning God wants to do them, wouldn't God make it happen regardless of a request? If not, does that mean that God's plan is flexible or that is God not running running things according to His will?God seems to subscribe to Deist philosophy when prayer is not answered, but is a personal, loving caregiver when prayers are answered.I have heard a similar take to your last point, the meditation-like prayer. Prayer is a way to fully understand and get our hearts in tune with the will of God. Ultimately, it is a way to cope with unanswered prayer.There is something revealing about when you need a methodology to cope with your religion.

    Like

  2. Ecellent post. You are exactly right: Any type of meditation will do what most Christians have reduced their ideas about prayer to. So many people follow blindly, believe by rote without thinking about what it is they claim to believe. And then when someone like you or I ask them what should be the obvious questions to ask, we get stared at as if we had flatulated loudly in their faces. I don't get it. Being accused of blashpemy is not an answer. Oh, well…

    Like

  3. I still have a nagging feeling about it. What about odd events that don't fit the norm? But of course these can happen with or without prayer.

    Like

  4. Mike,Can you give an example of an odd event that doesn't fit the norm?

    Like

  5. @TWF,There is so much to explain away when it comes to prayer. It is very revealing when you need a coping mechanism to accept your religion. Cognitive dissonance much?================================================@DougBI've asked these same questions repeatedly; always with the same result. People look at me like I have three heads and reply, "Gods ways are not our ways." Convenient, eh?

    Like

  6. I believe the statement that prayer changes the hearts of the people who pray is a true one — but not that that's a good thing. Perhaps the more people pray and put their trust in the God who ignores them, the more they rely on that absent God and the less they take responsibility for their own lives.Great post. And that's my two cents.

    Like

  7. And this is why I don't pray often. For an interesting compilation of a number of studies on prayer and meditation in healing, I recommend this link:http://onlinesurgicaltechniciancourses.com/2010/25-intriguing-scientific-studies-about-faith-prayer-and-healing/

    Like

  8. I think this argument fits well with the problem of evil. If we prayfor something good, like help for the starving kids in Africa, whydoesn't God help? But maybe God's goal isn't our happiness, but likescripture point out, the goal is to saving us and have a relationshipwith us. So that is why prayers for faith that go unanswered are forme the bigger problem. But as I struggle in unbelief, I hold outhope that this struggle maybe for good.

    Like

  9. @CDI agree with you. I know when I've prayed in earnest for things and expected an actual answer I waited. And waited. And waited longer. Then I examined myself to see if I was in the faith, if I had any sin in my life, if I was asking with wrong motives. Then I wrote of the lack of an answer to God saying no or not now. Until I'd racked up enough of those to begin to wonder if he was there at all. Now that I've given up on that as a means of problem solving I take much more personal responsibility. Instead of waiting on an answer I act or don't according to my best judgement. I'm much more proactive.==============================================@DoOrDoNot,Those studies look interesting. I'll have to check them out in more detail as I have time. Prayer is so confusing to me. Pray for this, don't pray for that. Know you've received what you've asked for, understand that you don't usually get what you've asked for. Praying for myself seems selfish, praying for anything else seems futile.===============================================@Exrelayman,I read that over on DougB's blog. He always has interesting points to make. :)===============================================@ Mark,I get what you're saying about God's goal not being our happiness. I've not ever really thought it was. Though it's interesting to contrast that with Jesus' statement that he came to bring abundant life. Is that just for heaven? And as for the goal being to save us and have a relationship with us, why is he so silent? I agree with you that prayers for things like faith and salvation present a bigger problem than even suffering. Because that is purportedly the goal and yet here we are struggling. Seek and find. Knock and it will be opened. I've sought, I've knocked and faith is elusive and the door is still seemingly closed.

    Like

  10. Oh, btw, Mark. I admire you for holding out hope. I'm certainly not trying to dash it. These are just questions that roll around in this head of mine. I clicked on the link in your comment and it sends me back to my blog, saying, "Sorry, the page you were looking for in the blog Gullible's Travels does not exist." I thought you might be linking to a post in your blog. I'd like to read it if you were. And thanks for stopping by and commenting. I've read a number of the posts on your blog and they're always thoughtful.

    Like

  11. I've met two kinds of praying people — the ones who see prayer as a conversation and who claim that God talks to them, and the ones who pray but get no response. I belonged to the latter. When I was Catholic, I prayed fervently, but never received any indication that God was listening. No response. No stirring in my heart. And definitely no answered prayers. Is it any wonder I'm an ex-Catholic now? It's tough having a relationship with an invisible entity who never interacts with you.As a side note, what do you believe is going on with people who claim that God communicates with them when they pray? Overactive imagination? Altered state of consciousness? Something else entirely?

    Like

  12. D'Ma,Don't worry; you're not dashing my hope. 4 1/2 years in unbelief hasdone that. But there are days when I’m hopefull that this is not invain. But then the thoughts in my head start going, and I startwondering if that is just a coping mechanism.The link I was trying to do was to this post:http://www.christiandoubt.com/2010/07/05/answer-to-prayers/, I triedto hyperlink it, but it must have gotten corrupted somehow.

    Like

  13. Mark, I remember reading that post. In fact, I'd been trying to remember where I read the comment about God "raising the blinds". LOL! I can relate to so much that is in that post and the subsequent comments. It's interesting that I watched March of the Penguins and came to a completely different observation and conclusion than Scott I really enjoyed Evan Almighty as well.

    Like

  14. Sorry I haven't replied in a while . . . I mean odd events like those "miracles" you hear about. Or things that just seem to be against the odds.

    Like

  15. But if it is all chance . . . and the same will happen with or without our prayer . . AND Jesus already prayed for our salvation . . . then why pray at all?

    Like

  16. Well, in the last several months, one disaster has seemed to befall our family after the other. I have a young son, twenty four, who was diagnosed with a serious from of cancer just one month before the birth of his second daughter. He was told there was a ninety percent chance the cancer was already in the blood stream, and that there was almost a hundred percent prognosis that he would be dead in two years without aggresive treatment. We received this horrible news while on the way to the rehersal dinner for our second son's wedding. He was to be married the next day.Then I lost my job, and one of our daughters-in-law suffered an early miscarriage.Last week we received the dreaded phone call that my youngest step son had been rushed to the emergency room with a brain infection. There was a strong probability that he would not survive the night with a eighty to ninety percent death rate from this.Needless to say, everyone was on their knees in prayer. I am overjoyed to report that the doctors are now saying that they believe that my oldest son will be completely cured of this rare form of cancer, and my step-son's life has also been spared. He is expected to make a full recovery. I have found another job which I think will better suit me than the one I have lost.Praise God, and thanks to the physicians for their skill. But, here's the thing, from a human point of view, we can never know for certain what the outcome may have been through all this without prayer. And, of course everyone struggles with the age old question of why does God in a fallen world allow good people to suffer, and the wicked to prosper?All that I can say folks, is that through all this God had confirmed His grace to me. As far as I'm concerned, His love, and presence is enough, and I'm choosing to trust Him with all those unanswered questions.When I thought both of my kids might not make it, through my grief, and falling apart, I praised Him for the gift of their lives, and for the hope of the resurrection.If we're going through hard times, and we all surely are, I think I would rather go through them with the presence, and comfort of God.Becky.

    Like

  17. You are welcome to your views. I have always been very science and truth minded and want to be sure of things. I think I should investigate many cases where prayers either go answered or unanswered. It is easy for some people to just accept something, but I am one of those people who really wants to be sure. I wish you happiness from here forward anonymous. regards,Mike

    Like

  18. D'Ma, you've definitely put your finger on a number of the problems with the pat answers about prayer. That church sign perturbs me. The implication is clear: It's your fault because you're not praying hard enough. You need to pray longer, harder, more sincerely. You need to fast, weep and wail. I was once caught up in a culture that put a real emphasis on this kind of travailing prayer. It was almost a self-flagellation in the hopes of bending the ear of the Almighty. It feeds into the same guilt complex as the idea that you aren't being healed because of your lack of faith. Ugh.

    Like

  19. I believe that if we held "God" accountable for every single prayer ever spoken, no matter how big or small, there would be a lot more questions to ask. As I seem to understand from some of the comments above and from my own past, prayer and god are nothing more than coping mechanisms; designed to help us through bad situations. It's a nice thought, like a shoulder to cry on, but completely unrealistic when approaching it from an objective point of view.

    Like

  20. @Ahab,"It's tough having a relationship with an invisible entity who never interacts with you."It is very difficult to have a one-sided relationship. After a while you just get tired of carrying the conversation and making all the effort. You realize that if you don't make contact you'd never speak to the person, so you decide to move on to someone who actually gives a rip whether you are alive today or not.As for your question as to what is happening within those who claim God is speaking to them, I really don't know. It's hard to say what someone else is experiencing. I have my suspicions, but don't want to insult anyone. Let's just say the mind can play tricks on anyone.==============================================@Becky,Thank you for sharing. I'm sorry for all your family has been through and hope for continued recovery and well being.==============================================@Chris,I only put my finger on a number of them. There is so much more that could be said about this. It is definitely as you describe, though. Self-flagellation. I must be doing something wrong; not praying hard enough, not praying long enough, not praying for the right thing, not obedient enough, not sincere enough. It tends to end in disappointment. And why wouldn't it when we're promised to receive what we ask for?==============================================@Anonymous(TheDon),Ayee, you can say that again. If you truly logged down all the prayers and all the answers to those prayers I think you'd begin to see a pattern. Folks surely don't get nearly all they ask for. And you can't tell me it's because the prayers are selfish or untenable. You're right! An invisible friend we can unload all our cares and burdens on. It's just that if we don't do something about it, nothing will ever change because the last time I checked invisible friends don't do much in the way of helping people.

    Like

  21. @mike0000000001,I made my answer to you in the form of a post. I really don't know the answer to your question except to say this:Beating the odds implies that it does happen. In other words, let's say you have cancer. Let's say the doctor gives you a %20 survival rate. That means that on average %20 of the people who have your kind of cancer survive. It's not unheard of. What about the other %80? Does that mean "God" loves them less? They are undeserving of a miracle? Throw in the fact that of both the %20 who survive and the %80 who don't there are both believers and unbelievers. Arbitrary outcomes. Does that sound indicative of miracles?

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s