I don’t know if it’s my age. Or whether over time, having been exposed (as it were) to God for so many decades that the knowing that I’ve gained has formed grooves of its own in my brain and in my consciousness, so that I’ve somehow, over the years, physically and mentally merged with this knowledge, so that it has become, literally, a part of me.
But it has definitely formed the way that I look at things.
It used to be that I looked at life through the eyes of an editor. I edited everything I looked at. Until it felt more like an obsession than a way-of-life. And so I stopped editing. And eventually I stopped editing the life around me.
But I’ve never stopped shaping, perhaps even reshaping, that which was around me into God terms. Here, this is surrender. Over there, that’s the lesson of peerage. Ah, and look, gratitude.
Perhaps it’s just a form of God-editing that I’ve adapted to my life.
And that has been just fine with me.
But it has done one definite thing to my thinking: it has brought me to a general intolerance (and a not very gracious one at that) of expressions of freethought: raising high the flag of atheism, intolerance of religion, and spitting at those who pray.
It’s not that I do not have some understanding of where these people are coming from.
It’s just that their thoughts are so limited, so childish, so, well, stupid.
It’s as though they are using apples as weapons and expect their enemies to take their aggressive efforts seriously.
Prayer, it seems, absolutely does not exist as a reality because every prayer that anyone has ever uttered has not been answered. It seems in their arguments that prayer is not a communication with God, not a two-way exchange, but rather an absolute demand on God. I’m praying for this, and if I don’t get this in the time that I give you to give it to me, then you don’t exist.
I wonder what kind of children these people were to their parents. Demanding, I expect. And quite unpleasant.
But imagine that as a paradigm for a parent-child relationship: if you don’t give me exactly what I want exactly when I want it, then I will denounce you as being my parent and assume that you don’t exist.
Where in nature does absolute gratification exist?
They whine that the phrase, ask and you will receive, is a misleading statement that convinces fools to try it out. And they’ll try until they get that God isn’t there and isn’t answering their every demand.
Well, for one thing, the verb is to ask, not to demand. Not insist. Not make ultimatums.
Because that is what their definition comes down to: ultimatums.
But how many times is a prayer answered, not by that which is prayed for, but by a deeper understanding and ability to accept what one has already? Why in these arguments is God reduced to an ATM machine (I put in my card, so where is my money)?
God is never one who teaches through the prayer itself. God is never deeper, more profound, more subtle and sophisticated than the petitioner; he is reduced to being nothing more than a clerk in a shop, responding mindlessly to the demands of the customers.
But, ultimately, a lot of misunderstanding of God and prayer is about how time affects the whole process.
There are three elements in prayer (not intercessory prayer): the prayee, God, and time.
And these three elements have to come together at the same time.
The prayee has to be ready to receive the answer to the prayer. God has to be ready to answer the prayer. And it has to be the time for it.
Which can get quite complicated, really. More complicated that it would appear at first glance.
Because you could be ready one moment, and not ready the next. And God, responding to your wavering heart, could hold back.
And then there’s time. Think about an apple tree. If you are praying to have apples in your back yard in order to start an apple pie business, then you have to be willing to wait until the trees grow.
And this is true for every prayer that is uttered (that is a petition). The object of the prayer has to come at its own time.
God is not the 7/11. God is the creator. And creation is a complex thing.
And, in prayer, we are actively becoming co-creators with God.
Which makes it all even just that more complicated.
The bottom-line negation of the assertion that prayer is vain and meaningless and not real, is one simple question: has anyone ever prayed and had their prayer answered?
All it takes is just one person to step forward and say, yes, this happened to me, for every negation of prayer to be erased.
In a way, I understand the blindness that these folks impose on themselves. And it is an self-imposition because all one has to do is read the writings of Mother Teresa to see how God, through a devout believer, can make himself manifest in the world.
And if you read carefully, listen closely, you will find how the element of time is woven all throughout her work.
Learning to work with time in our lives is perhaps one of the most important things we can do to begin to understand that prayer is real. It is the real means of bringing into reality that which we desire.
It is the real way of keeping God in our hearts and souls, so that we never have to feel alone or helpless.