Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Is There Any Such Thing As an Inappropriate Prayer?

As I discussed at some length in a previous post, I see God not as a separate entity that created us and decides which of us go to heaven and hell, but rather as an eternal consciousness that permeates all things. The thing I have been wondering about for the last few days is whether or not it is OK to ask God for help in a formal, prayerful kind of way.

Last week I was telling a friend about how there are a couple areas in my life right now on which I could really use some guiding wisdom. "Why don't you pray about it?," she quickly responded. My first reaction to this idea was, "Ask God for something? For myself? Eeeeeekkkk! That's just not appropriate. That might even be downright irreverent. God is not a slot machine that exists to entertain and fulfill all my wishes!" I frequently thank God for the world around me and the people in it, both friend and foe, and I also wish that God will do nice those for all those folks, but asking God to do something for me somehow seemed selfish and therefore off limits.

My friend and I had a spirited talk about whether or not there were inappropriate topics for prayer. Her view, in a nutshell, is that it is OK to say anything to or ask anything from God, as long as one is sincere in what one says. I continued to bristle at that notion, but my reaction really got me to thinking about why that was the case, and about whether I might (gasp!) be misguided in my view.

I concluded that my qualms about what is or is not an appropriate topic for prayer had to do with two things --(1) the Judeo-Christian view of God with which I was raised but in which I no longer believe and (2) my view of myself.

On the first issue - the kind of divinity that I now envision is not the kind of presence that might judge me harshly or punish me for anything that I might think or say. However, the God that's described in the Bible might, in one of his wrathful moments, give me some demerits if my request rubbed him the wrong way. He might even send me to hell. This thought raised the following questions - If my view of God has evolved from the Biblical version of God and into something that is more like an all-loving, all-knowing, non-judgmental force, then why would I still envision the Biblical God as the receiver of my request? And why would I leap to the conclusion that asking such a God for help would be grounds for a harsh judgment in the first place?

The answer to these questions ties into the second issue - which is that, man, I must be feeling pretty insecure and unworthy these days if I'm afraid to level with God about where I am and what I need. Like I could hide that from an omniscient presence anyway. When cast in that light, I view my reticence to ask God for help, especially when I believe that I really need said help, as evidence that there's still part of me that is afraid to just be who I am in the world and that instead seeks to censor myself to say only "correct" and "pleasing" things so that I will receive approval rather than rejection.

Since thinking all the above thoughts, I've been doing two things. I've been repeating to myself that it is OK to be who I am in this moment and to express openly and honestly what I think and feel. It is. Really, it is! God, along with many mortals, sees me for who I really am anyway, no matter how much I try to finesse my words and actions in order to increase the likelihood of acceptance in the face of potential rejection. I've also been repeating to myself that the divine thankfully doesn't abide by my self-imposed rules about right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate, worthy and unworthy. Regardless of what comes out of my mouth in the form of a prayerful request, God will carry on just fine, and so will I.

Today, with an open and honest heart, I am going to send up a request for the guidance that I feel I need, and I will do so without any reservations. While I'm at it, I'm going to say a special thank you for the friend who prompted me to think about this issue and see things differently.

10 comments:

Angela said...

Oh my God, you are really making it difficult, hey? It is NOT, in fact. What you said in the end is pretty good and right, only your heart should also believe it. Especially the part "I am loved by God, and I can love myself. Yes. I am truly lovable! And I can ask for anything, because God wants to see me happy. That`s why I am in this world. To be happy."
All quite simple, isn`t it? And true. Just don`t WORRY so much! And if the thought of HELL bothers you - there is no such thing. There is only Heaven. We will be with God in the end, and he will ask us, Dearie, why didn`t you ENJOY yourself more?
Doesn`t that sound better than all your long, difficult worries?
Haha, you`ll get the hang of it. Just practice praying. And you`ll see, you`ll get what you want!

Adrianne said...

Angela: I actually don't believe in hell. Never have, even despite years of religious training to the contrary. In fact, I usually don't think in terms of stark dualism when it comes to any topic related to spirituality. That is one reason why my recent struggle when it came to communing with the divine universe seemed so anomalous. But thinking through it and writing about it definitely helped. Thank you for your comment. I hope you'll come back again.

Barbara said...

The good news is there are no grades (on content or delivery) on your dialogue with God. Sometimes I find myself waiting too long to unburden my problems or supplications with God. It usually occurs to me as I am going to sleep or trying to (if there is something weighty on my mind.) I am constantly reminded that God would like to hear from me when things are going well. I'm somewhat afraid I might find "circuits busy" right now with all the economic woes, but if so I'll just call back later.

Val said...

Adrianne - are you me? i am writing in haste and this is my favourite subject! I am no theologist or academian but was raised as an anglican, thought about it and have gone my own way even since. I struggle with established religions (as i do with politicians) and decided long ago to think for myself.
they are not wrong but i celebrate the individual - knowing there is strength in numbers!
so enough about me, talk to God and listen to your inner voice.
i read a lot too and think so much, one of the things is that its ok to ask for something for yourself as long as it doesnt hurt someone else... so you could ask for the best possible outcome for all for instance.
in such a small answering space - when you feel unworthy remember God doesnt make mistakes and he made you perfect as you are. so celebrate that and celebrate the small window that is this life and do it YOUR way;
if you want to talk more on this let me know - i am definitely up for it - thanks this blog xx

Reya Mellicker said...

GOD SAYS YES TO ME

by Kaylin Haught

I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want to
Thanks God I said
And is it even okay if I don't paragraph
my letters
Sweetcakes God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I'm telling you is

Yes Yes Yes

Adrianne said...

My Reya! Thank you, again and again. (: )

Merle Sneed said...

Merle Wayne Sneed believes that whatever the creative force that started the universe, it doesn't care a whit about us.

I always wonder why we should pray for "God" to undo something that he/she inflicted upon us in the first place.

Angela said...

Merle, what a sad thing to believe. God (he or she, or the lovethatsurroundsus, or mypersonalbestfriend)inflicted freedom upon us. Freedom of choice, the best thing of all! Do you agree on that? And imagine you goofed things up, by your own free will, but after a while you see it was a pretty bad choice, and you see you hurt people and they turn away from you, or you lost things you cared for, or you got really ill from some kind of abuse (you get it), and you truly feel sorry and want to get relief - where do you turn to? Would you not hope for someone (a mother or a real good caring and nonjudging friend)who would listen to you and then say, I love you, you are lovable! And now you go and love yourself and the world around you so you won`t mess it up again? Have you ever tried to do this (it is called praying) and then NOT experienced this LOVE and happiness in you? It is there, I promise you. It depends on you allowing it in.

Adrianne said...

Merle -- you raise an interesting question, and one with which I struggle somewhat. I don't know if the great consciousness that I think of as God "cares" about us or not, and I tend to think it doesn't "listen" to us in the same way that we listen to each other (at least we do sometimes). However, I have convinced myself that the great consciousness is somehow sensitive to our thoughts and actions, because we are part of it. Maybe that's just what I need to do to make myself feel better. Maybe I will write a post about this some day. Thank you, as always, for your comment -- you always make me think, and I like that.

Angela said...

Adrianne, I just read your comments on Reya`s post as you suggested, and I`d like to answer you here (if that`s all right). Much of this I already told Barbara, but I`ll do it again. I totally agree with you both, and though it is not my task to tell any American how to feel, maybe it will help you how people from other countries look at things. You see, when I was 16, I was invited to the US to stay one year, by an American who wanted to fulfill my dream. - I guess I should write a whole post about this...It was a fabulous, incredible year, and I loved every moment. But I marvelled at much of what I saw - and this was back in 1964!!! When I left my home town Hamburg, 19 years after WWII, there were still ruins, destroyed living quarters from the English and American bombs (I once met a man who told me he had dropped bombs on Hamburg - we shook hands), you could still see many invalids on the streets with one or no legs or arms, when you bought postcards there was a line printed on it for the c/o, because still many families had to share apartments (I grew up with 11 people in our apartment). Some people could afford a car, but most went to work by streetcar, bicycle or on foot. Okay, let me not get carried away, you get the picture. And then I met my school mates in PA! Their parents often had two cars AND a boat to go waterskiing, the girls had a room of their own (I had to share with my two brothers), the milk was sold in cardboard boxes (at home we washed the glass milk bottles to be refilled), bicycles were practically non-existent, the kids were driven by their moms, all wore good, new clothes and shoes, they all had colour TV - all wonders to me! And the things they talked about were just their little problems with Mom or boys or what to wear to a dance...and though I liked them very much, I thought sometimes, You have no idea...
And as you said, when we drove through Tennessee and saw the huts of the plantation workers, there also were cars and TV-sets! No, poverty is something else. Ah yes, and when I was six, I got tuberculosis, probably from one of the refugee girls who came to look after us kids when my parents worked...