Thursday, July 24, 2014

Being Wrong When You Pray

Image source.

At first, Psalm 103 seemed to have no connection to reality.

"Forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases," seriously? Everyone knows God doesn't do that. And aren't we all tired of cliches that say he does?

Then there's a bit about "The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed." Yeah! Now that part I can get behind. Because I believe in resurrection.

But then the rest is punctuated with terms like "for those who fear him." So, God's blessings are just for the followers of the "correct" religion. Yeah, I don't buy that either.

So I read this psalm like, eh, I can't relate to much any of this.

But wait, don't the psalms teach us that you can tell God exactly how you feel, you don't have to censor anything? Well that's what the psalmist did. This is what he honestly felt, this is what he believed. That doesn't mean it has God's stamp of approval. Because the psalmist is wrong about some things.

And that bit about "healing all your diseases"- well maybe the psalmist had just gotten better from some disease and he was feeling really happy about it. So it's just an exaggeration. It's not really true, but that's how he honestly felt.

So let's talk about being wrong when you pray.

That's why I don't pray much nowadays. Because, I have some beliefs about God, some of which are very strong, but I'm definitely not confident enough to start monologuing at God with the assumption that he agrees with me.

I remember back when I was a teenager and I read bullshit about how teh gays were totally trying to destroy America, and so I prayed that God would stop gay marriage. I don't want to pray for stuff like that again. Stuff that's "us vs them" and I pray as if OBVIOUSLY God agrees with me.

Far far far too much of my life has been spent believing anyone who said "this is God's way." They acted as if "God agrees with me." They took his name in vain.

I so don't want to do that. I don't want to be wrong when I pray- it will only reinforce those wrong beliefs by making me feel like they have God's approval.

There's so much danger in assuming "God agrees with me." But I wonder if there's also danger in not praying because I never want to get that wrong.

I'll only assume a few things when I talk to God: that he's always with us, that he loves us, that he feels our pain, and that he created this world good and he will restore it all someday.

Everything else, I don't know. I don't know if a person can "have a relationship with God." I don't know if it makes sense to pray for this or that to happen. I don't know if God has an opinion about decisions I make in my life. I don't know if there are more answers out there or if this is all the faith I'm ever gonna have.

All I can do when I pray is tell God this is how I feel or this is what I want. But I don't know what role, if any, God has in my getting what I want. I don't know what the point of praying is anyway.

Ai ya. ("Ai ya [哎呀]" is an incredibly versatile Chinese interjection, for those of you wondering.) I don't wanna act like I know God when I really don't. I don't want to talk to God and have her sitting there like "what the heck are you talking about? Man I don't even know what to do with this prayer."

Is it okay to be wrong when I pray? On one hand, I know God will accept me. God loves me. God wants me to talk to her, just honestly say what I feel.

But if- when- I'm wrong, I don't want to be able to just pray it like everyone's cool with it.

And I don't want to be the kind of person who's so certain God agrees with me.


This post is part of a link-up on the topic of Psalm 103. To read other people's posts, click here: How can we bless God?

1 comment:

  1. "There's so much danger in assuming "God agrees with me." But I wonder if there's also danger in not praying because I never want to get that wrong." Yes. I think that tension I think shows you understand prayer really well!

    At its most simple level, I think of prayer as practicing the presence of God. Our lives are busy and loud and we forget that He's there, forget that He cares about us (especially in light of the questions crazy world events raise about what that means...), forget that He loves us.

    I think of it like conversations with my kids. I don't always agree with what they say, and sometimes they hear me wrong, but in the end, I'm glad they talked to me. Because it's a conversation that's an extension of the love and trust between us.