All Those Unanswered Prayers

So, I haven’t had much in the way of ideas lately (the blog will go on; just not sure if it will get updated more than a few times a week though…we’ll see) so I decided to pray for a little guidance.

And the answer I got was to, well, talk about prayer. Fitting, eh? Also, with this tiny revelation came the thought to link my topic with something another blogger, BlackGirlInMaine, had posted about recently at her place.

In her post “The follow-up” she reprints a column she wrote on the topic of race and more specifically perceived racism. In it, she notes that when she suspects racism against her, white people are often quick to come up with alternate scenarios, invalidating both her instincts and a lifetime of experience she had with something they have never had to deal with personally.

This is the way I feel when, for example, someone like The Word of Me (and I love you, TWOM, and want you to keep commenting; I’m not knocking you) comes into the comments and questions the validity of prayer, as he did for this post here in comment #10.

I could go on all day about what Jesus meant when he said anything asked in his name would be given, why God couldn’t possibly grant all prayers since some would be in direct conflict, the difference between a proper prayer and a selfish one, etc. etc. etc.

But I won’t.

What I will do is ask this: Why must some huge prayer-fulfillment event be the proof that prayer works? Why must most prayers be answered to prove there is a purpose and place for prayer? Why must I provide outside evidence of the power of prayer?

Much like racism, it’s something that one experiences quite personally. I believe in the power of prayer because prayers have been answered for me.

I pray for strength, and I usually get just enough fortitude to get me through what was previously crushing me.

I pray for help when a financial crisis rocks my family, and before long, I get a gift or an opportunity that provides me with just enough money to get past that crisis.

I pray guidance in writing a blog post, and when I open my Bible, a highlighted passage is staring me in the face (and I don’t highlight very many passages in my Bible) and I almost immediately know what I am supposed to say about that passage.

No, not all my prayers are answered. But many of them don’t deserve to be, and I know that in many cases once I’ve had time to think about it. Hell, I know that a lot of the times when I’m doing the praying.

The point is, I have a very personal experience with prayer. To require me to seek out some proof of its power is to essentially tell me I’m delusional to some degree. Because you’re saying that the proof in my own life isn’t enough. That I cannot trust my own experiences.

I’m not the kind of guy who ever looked for a savior, you know. I’m not the kind of guy who ever wanted a God who expects me to answer for my sins. I’m really not. It would be much easier to pick a religion that is less demanding of my spirit or to pick no religion at all. But I am a Christian because I feel the truth in it, not because I chose it. Likewise, I have experienced what prayer can do.

I’m not saying that I can prove to you prayer has power simply based on my own anecdotal experience. I’m just saying that you cannot demand that I offer up proof it works and that in the absence of statistics and correlations and visible proof I must reject that it has any value.

I can’t prove that I really love my wife or that she loves me. I can’t provide hard evidence that love exists between us. I can only say that I feel it and know it is there. But it would be easy to say it’s just a delusion based on neurotransmitters or that it’s something that only has short-term value and really never lasts.

And, as I noted before by referencing BGIM’s post, you can invalidate a person’s claims of racism by simply saying, “Well, how can you be sure?”

But that’s just a way to tear the other person down a little, whether you intend it or not. Because it’s easy to pick apart subtle or ephemeral things when you aren’t in the midst of them.

Prayer works for me. And so I know it’s real and powerful.

That’s may not be good enough for some of you out there. But it’s good enough for me.

15 Responses to “All Those Unanswered Prayers”

  1. July 29, 2009 at 8:41 am

    When people question me about the validity of things like praying and fasting, my response is generally, “if I feel that it is of use and that feeling makes me calmer and more centered, it IS working, even if I never receive what you would judge as an answer.”

    What a husband and wife share, as you pointed out in your post, can’t always be measured or proven. Neither can what we share with our Creator. But if we can feel it, if it reassures us and makes us more capable of getting through the day, even if it is a “crutch” I don’t know that having a crutch is always a bad thing. Crutches help us heal.

  2. 2 Deacon Blue
    July 29, 2009 at 9:36 am

    Good point, Lindsey, about crutches. I seem to recall once long ago on this blog using a similar metaphor. Crutches are to keep us moving and allow us time to heal, not hold us back or make us weaker.

  3. July 30, 2009 at 11:20 am

    prayer clears my head. as does writing, riding my bike,cooking, swimming in the ocean. difference is those clear me, prayer connects me.

    and i don’t pray for ‘things’ i sometimes pray for the wisdom or the insight to solve ‘things’ or better ‘things’ but almost all my prayers are for clarity and calm, so i can cope with whatever ‘slings and arrows of outrageous [mis]fortune’ are thrown at me, so my skin can be tough enough but my insides stay soft enough.

    am i sure of anything? only that at the moment i’m still breathing.

  4. 4 Deacon Blue
    July 30, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    And to that, Robyn, I say “Amen.”

  5. 5 Black Diaspora
    July 30, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    I would have responded to TWOM in the previous post on the subject, but he was slow responding, and I moved on.

    But here’s the skinny on prayer. Prayers are always answered. ALWAYS. We don’t think so, because we don’t always seem to get what we pray for.

    Yet, it’s like this: We get what we expect to get. And many times, it’s nothing, because we expected to get nothing, although we prayed to get something.

    How do we expect God to be clearer about what we want when we’re not clear about what we what. We say we need a new house, or a new car, all the time thinking that the prayer is a waste of time, and we’re disappointed when what we get is: A WASTE OF TIME.

    Oftentimes, it’s the sponsoring thought behind the thought that is answered, rather than that for which we asked. Why? Because we firmly believed in the sponsoring thought.

    And if TWOM is still interested, I will give him an account of an answered prayer, but, alas, he will still be skeptical, and write it off as a coincidence, etc.

  6. 6 LightWorker
    July 30, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    And I can offer TWOM one or two examples as well. Prayer is a request to God. But give this some thought: Why in hell are we praying for a thing? (Look that question over again. It was not meant to be rude.) Shouldn’t God already know that we’re in need of a thing, and provide it without the asking?

  7. 7 Deacon Blue
    July 31, 2009 at 10:34 am

    Well, there is something to be said for asking, and that is because when we ask, we are acknowledging our need. If God answered our needs all the time before we had even recognized them, examined them, appreciated them and understood them at least in part, what would have learned? Nothing. We would not know where the help came from. We might have never had a chance to gain some understanding of a need or problem.

    It isn’t just about God giving, it’s about God helping us to be better.

  8. 8 LightWorker
    August 1, 2009 at 12:28 am

    “[W]hen we ask, we are acknowledging our need.” Deacon Blue

    If I say that I’m a child of God, am I not also admitting that I have no “needs” at all?

  9. 9 Deacon Blue
    August 1, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    Depends on how you define needs. We all have needs, even God. The fact that they may already be fulfilled in some cases, either currently or in the future, doesn’t mean they aren’t still needs.

    I think this is a semantics thing you’re dealing with here, and I think we view the word “needs” from slightly different angles.

  10. 10 LightWorker
    August 2, 2009 at 1:20 am

    “Depends on how you define needs. We all have needs, even God. The fact that they may already be fulfilled in some cases….”

    You do know how contradictory your statement is, don’t you? You can’t be totally satisfied and, at the same time, require something or want something. I thought we could have a nice little conversation about the necessity of prayer, but your statement precluded that possibility.

    “I think this is a semantics thing you’re dealing with here, and I think we view the word ‘needs’ from slightly different angles.”

    Unless we can agree on the meaning of the terms we use, a dialog is impossible.

    Thanks for responding.

  11. 11 Deacon Blue
    August 2, 2009 at 2:01 am

    I’m not sure why you insist on what seems a very limited use of the term “needs.”

    Certainly, God fills my needs. But how could he fill what never existed. And if He were absent from my life, those needs would return.

    God has been working toward bringing people into line with eternity. Isn’t that a “need” that He aims to satisfy. I don’t see “needs” as inherently meaning that you are unsatisfied.

    I NEED to eat to live, but by your definition, needing to eat means that my belly is never at any point satisfied.

    I would NEED (pardon my smart-assedness here) to understand how you are defining this word and why so narrowly, before I can dialog. Perhaps you should pick a synonym on which we can agree. Desire? Want? Something else?

  12. 12 LightWorker
    August 2, 2009 at 7:45 am

    @Deacon: “Certainly, God fills my needs. But how could he fill what never existed. And if He were absent from my life, those needs would return.”

    You state it precisely: “[H]ow could he fill what never existed.” You have no needs. You just think you do. Those two statements are not the same.

    “God has been working toward bringing people into line with eternity.” Are you sure? Could it be that he’s happy with you, and us, just as you/we are? That, just the way we are, we’re achieving a holy purpose, whether we know it or not.

    “I NEED to eat to live, but by your definition, needing to eat means that my belly is never at any point satisfied.”

    Well, not for long. I won’t quibble though, but take it a step further: The “I” of you doesn’t “NEED to eat to live.” That’s assured. But the BODY needs to eat in order to live. YOU will outlive your body.

    I was prepared to discuss the subject regardless of how you defined the word, “need.” But I can only go as far as you’re willing:

    “I think this is a semantics thing you’re dealing with here, and I think we view the word “needs” from slightly different angles.”

    As long as we’re viewing the operative word, “need,” from “slightly different angles,” wouldn’t you agree that a substantive discussion is pretty much impossible?

    “I would NEED (pardon my smart-assedness here) to understand how you are defining this word and why so narrowly, before I can dialog. Perhaps you should pick a synonym on which we can agree. Desire? Want? Something else?”

    Yeah, that was a little snarky, but I’ll live. Call it what YOU want: Desire, Want, or Something Else.

    Yet, to need, is not exactly the same as to desire. One signals a requirement and the other a “wish” or “longing,” but, over time, the definitions of Desire, Want, Need, have melded. What does that say about the precision of our language?

    I was hoping that you’d be open to a discussion, and that definitions would be refined along the way, either directly or contextually, either denotatively or connotatively. I believe that all I’ve managed to do is be a bother.

    For that I apologize.

    Yet, in regard to God, it’s my understanding that he can desire (long for) something without having a need (want, requirement) for it. Now your understanding may be different. And that’s okay. We’re merely offering perspectives. I have no need (want, requirement) to defend my perspective, just a desire (wish, longing) to share it.

    How does all this relate to prayer? If you enter prayer believing that you’re in need of something, then you’re making the answering of that prayer twice as hard. God doesn’t grant our wishes in the same way an earthly father might, testing our prayers for their worthiness, or our worthiness.

    Desire is prayer. Look around you, the world is as it is because of the fulfillment of our desires, or the fulfillment of our fears (which operates somewhat like desires).

    Hence, Jesus’ admonition, “What things soever you desire, believe that you receive them, and ye shall have them.”

    Wouldn’t it be better that we consciously manifest that which we wish (desire), rather that allow those desires (and fears) to reign unchecked?

    Why do I say that you have no needs? Simple. One of the best known parables in the Bible says so: “The Prodigal Son.”

    The Father in the parable states it this way: “Son, all that I have is yours.” And here’s another little reminder from the parable: Upon the son’s return to his Father’s house, the son wasn’t required (didn’t need) to ask for anything, as he had before leaving, but was given all sorts of things without the asking. As I recall: shoes for his feet, a robe, a ring, and a party thrown so that he and his friends could make “merriment.”

    Is that how you remember it?

    As one, then, who has all that the Father has, asking, and petitioning, suggest that you don’t already have that for which you’re asking. So why ask? The Father gives his assurance: “Son, all that I have is yours.”

    Therefore, all that is really required is gratitude, and more gratitude. Remain, I say, in a constant state of “gratitude,” and you will learn, too, that you have no needs, and all that you desire is yours.

    “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.
    And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.”

    For their unbelief, he “said it,” indicating that even the saying was unnecessary!

  13. 13 Deacon Blue
    August 3, 2009 at 10:25 am

    I just want to say, LightWorker, that I’m not trying to be difficult or anything. You came out with a somewhat inscrutable comment to start, I made a fairly short response that was the best I could do on such a brief statement as you made, and then you kind of seemed to decide instantly that we couldn’t talk about it anymore. When, in fact, we might have as valid a debate on “needs” among Christians as we do about the value and use and place of prayer.

    Here’s how I see it, and you can feel free to disagree.

    You are making a value judgment about needs. You are drawing certain lines as to what is a need and what isn’t. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But the fact is that prayer will boil down to a “need” no matter what, in the strictest definition of the word.

    Because even if we say that as a Christian, all our needs are met, and prayer is the way we show our appreciation to God, who meets our needs, that still fills one or more need. Because then that still means we are using prayer to meet either:

    – Our need to show honest appreciation and love for God because it emotionally or spiritually satisfies us to do so.

    – Our need to reverence God because we don’t want to offend Him

    – God’s need to be worshipped and praised.

    – The need for humans and God to come to a spiritual communion

    Now, you can argue that those aren’t needs. But even with prayer in its purest form, one of more of those aspects are what people will latch in on. And all of those things can be defined as needs.

    Yes, as a child of God, all my needs are met because regardless of what happens to me in this life, God (and Jesus) have me in hand and will catch me. If not in this life, then in the next one.

    But there is still a need-based aspect to prayer, in my opinion, and in my view of prayer. And in my analysis of what the Bible says about prayer.

    For example:

    The Lord’s Prayer: Jesus gave this prayer to us as the model prayer of all prayers. It is a prayer in which we ask for forgiveness of our sins, to be guided away from evil, to help us be in a forgiving mind, to be provided for physicaly and/or spiritually, and to show our reverence and love toward God the Father. These are all needs. And Jesus told us to prayer for them.

    Also, Jesus said: “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:44-45). Even if you go with the notion that the enemies we pray for are not children of God, and therefore still have needs, and we are only praying for THEIR needs, Jesus still presents such prayer as a way of reinforcing or perhaps even showing/proving that we are truly children of God.

    There are many times, LightWorker, that your very metaphysical approach to things (and there’s nothing wrong with that approach) is so esoteric and so separate from the affairs of the world that I think we have a disconnect.

    I’m not trying to convince you that a child of God doesn’t have his/her needs met at all times. But those needs must exist on some level in order to be met.

    Being fed is a concept that only exists because we eventually hunger. So too, prayer exists to meet certain needs, for us and for our Heavenly Father. At least that’s how I view the needs vs. prayer issue.

  14. 14 LightWorker
    August 4, 2009 at 6:33 am

    “There are many times, LightWorker, that your very metaphysical approach to things (and there’s nothing wrong with that approach) is so esoteric and so separate from the affairs of the world that I think we have a disconnect.” Deacon

    Are you saying I’m too heavenly to be any earthly good?

  15. 15 Deacon Blue
    August 4, 2009 at 9:14 am

    Not at all. But also note that there are four gospels. John’s is highly metaphysical, and the other three much less so, and even those three are very different in character from one another. There is a place for all things, but different approaches can also lead to confusion between people.

    This isn’t a bad thing.

    But it’s a true thing.

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Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

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