Wednesday, January 22, 2014

And that's why I don't pray anymore

I read Libby Anne's post, Prayer That Can’t Go Wrong, and wow, that is exactly how I used to pray. In the post, Libby Anne talked about what her mother prayed as the whole family searched for missing glasses: "Lord Jesus, please show us where David’s glasses are. You know where they are, Lord, and he needs them. But if it is not your will for us to find them, we understand."

Image source.

Yep. Back in college, I used to pray so much and I TOTALLY had a relationship with God. Prayed about EVERYTHING. And I TOTALLY trusted God. God would protect me and bring good things. And even if he didn't, even if something bad happened, even if I died, it was all in his control and somehow it would be okay. He knew what was best for everyone and he would do it.

And as Libby Anne points out, this way of thinking means prayer can't fail. Yep. I always trusted God and was so happy. I was so confident that God would protect me, and everything would be okay. (Obviously you can't use it as proof that God exists, since anything that happens can be explained as "God's plan"- and I didn't try to use it as proof of that. Instead, it was the logical result of my beliefs about what God is like.)

Unfortunately, thinking like this can get kind of victim-blame-y. Because, you know, if I hear about something bad that happened to someone, I would think maybe it's because they didn't pray. If you pray, God will protect you. He wouldn't let things that are SO NOT OKAY happen.

I remember one time at a prayer meeting, we prayed for victims of a recent earthquake. My friend, who brought up the prayer request, mentioned that a lot of students were taking exams when the earthquake happened, and they were buried by it.

And I was shocked at the thought that some people just like me, college students taking exams, would die like that. That is SO NOT OKAY. How could this happen?

But they lived in a third-world country. Of course that kind of thing happens in third-world countries. They're not just like me. It's okay.

See? Blaming the victim. It's their fault for living in the third-world country. It happens. Because I couldn't bear the thought that someone like me or my friends could be killed like that.

America. Bad things don't happen here. (Full disclosure: I now live in China.) Image source.

And then, I got sick. Turned out it was my gall bladder. Every day I felt like I had to throw up. All I could do was lay on the couch and wonder how I would ever finish my masters thesis.

How could God let that happen? I had planned to graduate and move to China. Somehow that got delayed by a whole year. Turns out I can't trust God to not let my own organs bring my whole life and all my plans to a stop for an indefinite period of time. I had no idea that could happen to me.

It's not okay.

And it turns out, a lot of NOT OKAY things happen every day.

So what's the point of prayer? There is no "God will protect us and even if bad things happen, everything will be okay."

God never promised to keep this from ruining your life. Image source.

I should clarify that I do still pray, but not very much, and not about the same things I used to.

And I wish I could "have a relationship with God" like I used to, but all that certainty is gone now. I don't even know if it's possible anymore.

All the certainty is gone now.


  1. Yeah, I really miss "having a relationship with God" but I don't know if it's even possible anymore. How can anyone know God? It's too easy to make "God" conveniently agree with everything one already believes.

  2. Well firstly, God is always changing how I believe to agree more with Him. It's the most challenging relationship I have. And yet I see the difference He works in my character: I'm kinder and "truthier" than ever.

    There's so much I want to say but I think there's more heart thinking going on than anything else. So as much as I want to say something to comfort/encourage/hug you with words, I really would just love to listen. Do you ever use Google hangout?

  3. I've been there too, wanting a "relationship with God" (whatever that means) and at the same time not wanting it, praying sporadically and missing the more confident, fervent prayers of the past--and yet sometimes finding it a peculiar relief to give it a break. I'm in a place right now (if the past week counts as right now) where I have been praying more again, but the certainty is gone. Sometimes I miss that certainty, but other times I think it's better in the long run not to be certain... because I think a desperate need for certainty does lead to us (or at least me) trying to make God into what I think He ought to be. I think I'm slowly coming to a place where I don't mind the uncertainty, and I still think that (as much as I really do hate this rhetoric and all of its associations) I have a relationship with God even if it doesn't look the same as it did in the past, and *maybe* it's a richer relationship now than it was when I thought God and I agreed on like everything.
    Apologies for the run-on sentences :)

  4. Yeah. That's exactly how I feel.

    I really thought I was just going through a period of questioning stuff, and then I would figure out my beliefs and be certain again and be all close with God again. But maybe the truth is that nothing is certain... But I really really know I want to follow God.

  5. Yup, the only prayer I really prayed--and only occasionally did I pray it, because I was questioning everything--for quite a few months was: God, I know I want You (at least I *mostly* think I do)... but I *don't* know anything else. And I could only hope/pray that would be enough. And I think it is.

    I'm still questioning just about everything doctrinal in nature, by the way. The only thing I do know is that I want to know God, whatever that means/looks like (probably not like what I thought it did a year ago, much less 5 years ago!), and right now I feel kind of okay with that.

    I don't know if this will help you in your particular journey, but I wish you the best!

  6. You can email me. :) perfectnumber628 at