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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

So I'm Praying Again

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It's Advent, which seems to me like a good time to pray and try to see if I can connect with God again.

I've prayed very little lately, because prayer requires one to assume things about God; to believe you and God have, on some level, a common viewpoint from which to start talking.

Pray "God, thank you for blah blah blah," and you're assuming 2 things: 1) God probably/possibly had a role in causing "blah blah blah" to happen, and 2) God thinks that "blah blah blah" is a good thing.

Pray "God, help XYZ to do ABC," and you're assuming: 1) XYZ doing ABC is the sort of thing the God could maybe cause to happen, and 2) God agrees that ABC would be a good thing.

Unless you're praying with such vague generalities that they could be interpreted to mean anything (which would be pointless), it's impossible to pray without making assumptions about what God is like, and, most importantly, the assumption that "God agrees with me."

"God agrees with me" is one of the most dangerous beliefs there is, and that's a major component of my old religion that I'm trying to get away from. Too many people have used "this is God's way" to promote their own opinions on dating, parenting, heaven and hell, whatever. And I have done too many things that were actually bad ideas because "this is what God said."

So if I pray "God thank you for this and that" or "God do this and that" it's just reinforcing the assumption that "God agrees with me."

But without any assumptions at all, I literally have no way to say anything to God.

What to do?

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So I started praying specifically to "the God of love." Because I have a lot of ideas and strong opinions about who God is, but I'm not so confident that I'd go right up to God and start talking as if those opinions are truth, as if clearly God and I are on the same page about things. I have a particular understanding of God, which I decided to refer to as "the God of love" because, well, 1 John 4:8, and the definition of love is the most important part of what I believe now, and maybe the biggest difference from what I believed before.

I'm praying to a specific version of "God," which may or may not exist. (Of course, I know I'm wrong to some extent- no one can fully understand God.)

I'm praying to who I think God is, and the real God(s) can take it or leave it.

I'm stating that upfront when I pray. Maybe that's the best way.

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A few other bits:

Is being confident about one's beliefs a good or bad thing? Too confident and it's "God agrees with me" and you won't listen to any alternate views. Too little confidence and you're not able to act on your beliefs, so having beliefs is pointless. Where's the balance?

Is that what faith is? So is faith good or bad? Well obviously it's good if the object of one's faith is something true and good. But everyone has different opinions on what's true, and it's impossible (maybe not even helpful?) to try to settle that question. Are there other guidelines to know if faith is good or bad? I could say something like "if it causes you to do things that help the world then it's good" but people will have different opinions on what does and does not "help the world." It seems like there's no unbiased position.

Also: everyone is wrong about God, because we're human and we don't know everything. So is it possible to hold a view about God that can correct itself, rather than just reinforcing itself? (Again, there will be a ton of different ideas on what "correct" means here, so ... maybe the question doesn't make sense anyway, maybe you have to assume the "right answer" first before knowing how to build a set of beliefs/methods that can "correct itself" toward that "right answer.") Actually, I think listening to a lot of diverse opinions helps.

We're not perfect. We're all wrong about some things, but at some point you have to just go with it and do your best, and you're gonna make mistakes but it's better than nothing. So ... but how?

5 comments:

  1. Gosh, I feel that all this "what if God doesn't agree with me" stuff is taken care of by praying "if it is your will", like Jesus in Gethsemane praying, "God, help me to avoid ABC, if it is your will," or more literally, "God, I really really want to get out of ABC, please, but I accept that it's your will and not mine that needs to be done." So what this sounds like in my own prayers is, "God, please help my partner and son to get along this afternoon so that I don't come home to a lot of fighting again. If it is your will that they fight, please guide me to know what to do and when to stay out of it, so that we all may grow in love." I'm pretty sure that the end goal of our all growing in love is something God thinks is good, so I'm asking for the path toward that goal that sounds good to me, but if God has something else in mind, I'm asking for help seeing what it is.

    As for giving thanks, I think that's always good. Say your neighbor thanks you effusively for the big box of celebrity gossip magazines that gave her something fun to read while she had the flu. But you weren't the one who left that box on her porch, and you think celebrity gossip rots the mind. Still, wasn't it nice of her to say thank you? Give her a point for that!

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  2. Hmm yeah, maybe "if it's your will" is a good way to remind ourselves that maybe God doesn't agree with us. I'll think about that.

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  3. You don't need to be perfect. Humans are sinful people. Submit yourself to the Lord (not a god created in your or someone else's own image) and let Him be your guide. Do the best you can, and don't let your preconceived notions get in the way of this.

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  4. Yes, I am doing my best, but my worry is that because people aren't able to truly understand God, our idea of God will always be made in our (or someone else's) own image.

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  5. Study the Bible and submit to Him. Rely on Him to lead you where you need to go. No need to over-intellectualize everything. Would there be a need for faith if a person could determine everything they needed to know through experimentation?

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