Further Thoughts on Prayer

Recently a friend who suffered a family tragedy some years ago shared with me the comment made to him by a priest. On the night of this tragic loss, the priest-friend came to the home and listened as my friend vented about how God had not answered his prayers. The priest said very directly “God doesn’t answer prayers.”

While this initially was a somewhat shocking thought, upon reflection there is some comfort in it. Many people pray for serious matters. Healing a cancer. Curing a depression. Bringing a loved home safe from war. Many of those prayers end with a sad outcome. I have heard too many of those people judge themselves for not praying hard enough or correctly enough or, worse yet, for not deserving the desired outcome. I find no desire to believe in a God who answers prayers based on some secret algorithm or, worse yet, randomly.

So if God doesn’t answer prayers, what if anything does God do? I take comfort from the idea articulated by writers such as Harold Kushner and Anne Lamott that God fills our pain, that God is present amidst our suffering, listening and consoling. I take comfort in the thought that, on occasion, God may intervene directly in human affairs, as I believe He/She did when two men came together and created Alcoholics Anonymous. And I certainly sense God’s presence in a great  piece of music or a great work of art or even in the laughter of my grandchildren.

God doesn’t run a candy store. Of that I am sure. God can be present to us in meaningful ways. Of that I am sure. I just don’t know about prayers of petition.

As I wrote three years ago, there are other forms of meaningful prayer. Prayers of gratitude (although that gets tricky if I believe I am grateful for an answered prayer). There are prayers of mystical wonder where my heart soars with joy when I sense a connection. And there are powerful prayers of silence where I strive to listen and to hear God within.

I look forward to the day when it will all make sense. I will continue with petitions for loved ones as well as for the many suffering ones I see daily. But perhaps that priest’s words are a challenge. As a therapist said to me years ago, “Perhaps your religion needs to grow up a bit.” Perhaps my idea of prayer needs to grow up as well

Reflection: How does prayer fit into your spiritual world?

About richp45198

I am a clinical psychologist and have an abiding interest in matters spiritual.
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5 Responses to Further Thoughts on Prayer

  1. Certainly asking is important, but asking comes from the ego most of the time, and not from the deeper Self that is truly the sacred within us. How seemingly impossible it is sometimes to get those words out of our mouths: “Thy will be done.”

    I like what Catherine of Sienna says about prayer:
    A great helplessness I felt at times
    to even dress myself some days.
    So I prayed with all my heart,
    Dear God, help me.”
    It is not possible for Love to not hear us.
    And whatever happens, the perfect teacher staged.
    What would a wise, powerful king allow a beloved child to see?

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  2. Susan Bass says:

    With regard to prayers of petition, a Muslim friend of mine told me, “God is not your secretary”. He was just making a point, but a good point. The underlying question of un-answered prayers is the question of why God allows suffering, particularly of the innocent and HIs followers. For some reason, we are not allowed to know the reason. My father was continuing to ask those questions about suffering and injustice until hours before he died at the age of 85. I do know that my Dad and all the others with him on the other side of life have been given the pieces to the rest of the puzzle now. So I guess we just have to wait (“in joyful hope”) until we get there to find out. After all, Jesus would not lie.

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  3. susan beehler says:

    presence

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  4. susan beehler says:

    i give thanks for all thoughts and musings thank you richard for your posts that engage folks….thanks to carolyn who words feelings so well

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  5. tom cunningham says:

    MY THOUGHTS ARE NOT YOUR THOUGHS — NOR ARE MY WAYS YOUR WAYS —- I HARDLY EVER PRAY TO GOD — HIS WAY WILL PREVAIL — WHATEVR HE VISITS ON ME WILL BE ENDURED GRACFULLY — OR CELEBRATED WITH THANKS AND, OFTEN, TEARS — WHEN I WANT SOMETHING BADLY ENOUGH I PRAY TO MARY — I BOTHER HER ONCE OR TWICE AND LET HER BE — SHE’S HEARD ME — I HAVE RECENTLY PRAYED THAT DENISE BE CURED OF ALZHEIMERS — I GO RIGHT TO GOD’S MOTHER — CANT BEAT THAT !!! —- OH, IF GOD NEEDS TO RUN A CANDY STORE HE WILL — AND HAS TOM CUNNINGHAM

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