I realized when I started thinking about re-entering the realm of faith again that I could do a lot of things really well already. Read the Bible, check. Discuss theology, check. Support and participate in a community of like-minded people, check. Go to church, check. Try to be a good person, check.
… Pray? That became a sticking point. I feel silly. I honestly feel ridiculous even thinking about it. Who do I think I am? If there’s anyone there, I’m pretty sure they have better things to do than listen to me whinge on about stuff I need or people I like.
So then I thought, well, you’re going to have some serious problems being a Christian if you can’t pray. And if you aren’t even sure that there is a God, why are you even trying?
But does faith require us to be SO absolute? Do I have to be 100% sure of something I can’t see, 100% of the time? Isn’t doubt a normal part of the human journey? I think it is. Faith isn’t something that’s easy to master, or that we are born with. It’s something that has to be shown to us, and learned. If I kept my butt out of religion until I had 100% faith in something, I’d never be a religious person. But I want to *find* that faith, I want it to be revealed to me. I think that’s enough for now.
Okay! I’ve not successfully convinced myself that I’m not a heretic for having some doubts, now how do I go about praying? Here are some thoughts I had when I started to consider it:
1. Praying is really just talking to God.
2. Even if God doesn’t exist at all, praying is still a good exercise in communicating your desires and feelings, so it’s not entirely a moot point in that case.
3. I am going to look v. silly if I fold my hands like children do, or kneel at the end of the bed. I don’t even have carpet and the hard-wood flooring is not comfortable.
4. The cats are going to wonder what the heck I’m doing, and probably jump on me
5. Okay focus. Why do we pray? To give thanks, to ask for help, to hope for things, to vent, to ask WHY, to demand things, to offer bargains, to hear something in response.
6. Do I have to start “Dear God”? Because if I do, I will just go “it’s me, Margaret” and then chuckle, and I don’t think it’s very nice to chuckle during prayers.
7. Why do we go through the exercise of praying if God knows what we are thinking anyway?
8. Maybe the Bible has some advice.
- Ephesians 6:18 – And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
And then I stopped feeling foolish. On ALL occasions. With ALL KINDS of prayers and requests.
- Romans 8:26-27 – In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.
I really did forget how powerful a verse can be. Here I was, treating this like a research assignment and looking for citations and information. And instead, I found a tinge of that feeling that I have missed – tingles, brightness, light heart. Just a speck of it, but enough to keep me going. And since honesty is the best policy, and there’s no time like the present, and every other trite saying, here is a prayer. Let’s call it “A Prayer from a Long-Lost Friend”
I am not sure you are there. If you are there, I am not sure you want me. But I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately, and I miss hanging out with you. It always made me feel good to be with you, and it made me want to be a better person afterwards. Kind of like a battery recharging. And there is a lot of shit going on that is draining me lately. And by lately, I mean the past 10 or so years (yeah, I know, it’s been a while). I am tired of being bitter. I am really, really tired of the energy it takes to actively dislike people who, if I’m entirely honest, don’t reflect anything about the Christ that I learned in Sunday school. I’m tired of blaming people for a bad religion and not offering or being part of solutions. I’m tired of not feeling good enough. I am tired of people thinking I’m weird to want to have a relationship with you because you aren’t there, or might not be there, or your followers think I’m sinful and going to hell. So yeah, I’m tired. But lately I have remembered what it felt like to have faith, and rest in that faith, and live according to the love I felt in faith. And it’s really strange that I can remember that feeling, because for a long time I couldn’t. I thought it was lost forever, and that since I rejected the terms on which it came so long ago, I wasn’t allowed to have it again. Now I know that’s not true.
Please help me with this process. Help me figure things out. Keep putting people around me who are amazing ambassadors of faith. Keep challenging me to be more respectful to ambassadors of yours who aren’t very amazing. You have my attention. You practically forced your way into my life again, so I’m listening, somewhat against my will, but I guess entirely in accord with yours. I’m listening – tell me what happens next.