07 June 2007

On Coincidences and Prayer

In response to Ben's post on prayer:

Woah, I'm totally freaked out by this post. Not because you're marriage hungry (honestly, anyone who's been reading your blog for more than a month would know that) but because I had this exact conversation on the tube (read: subway) with my study abroad group after seeing the play A Matter of Life and Death at the National Theatre. (Yes, you should be jealous. Excellent play.) Anyway, it was the same conversation--minus some of the marriage bits--which wouldn't be so weird except that I also pulled out Christ's prayer in the garden as an example of how we can pray for things we want and still pray in faith. Creepy. Maybe we've been reading each other's ideas too much, and our minds have started to work the same way. Gah!

But on a more serious note, I think that trying to simplify prayer down to one aspect is always too, well, simple. I try not to think so much about what I should be praying for and instead just use it as a chance to talk with God.

Let's use the very apt metaphor of being out on a date. If you're always thinking about what you should or shouldn't be saying, it really undermines your ability to get closer to the other person. Everything feels contrived and second-guessed, and in the end, you end up with a relationship with your philosophy of what pleases the other person, not with the person themselves. Whereas if you simply speak your mind, you'll get to know each other for who you are, not who you picture each other to be.

I've started to take the same approach with prayer. I don't worry about how it's changing me or how I should be praying. I simply talk with God as I would to anyone else about my day--what I thought about things, what I think I did well or not, what I wish had happened differently, what I'm worried about--and trust that by actually just talking with God it is changing me. And as far as I can tell, it's working because I feel closer to God this way than I ever did when I was worrying about what I should be praying about.

This debate on prayer changing reality (or not) is much the same as the dilemma of omniscience and agency--very difficult to come to conclusions on, people have been arguing about it for centuries, yet the answer really has little impact on how you live your life. You must still continue to make choices, and in this case, we are commanded to pray. There are multitudes of different things we're instructed to pray for; I find it hard to believe we can simplify them all down into one category. How about we just rely on the Spirit and our relationship with God to tell us what to pray about, hmm? Just talk. Really.

(And no, I'm not back from England yet. Don't bother me to post more stuff. I will. When I'm done with London. And Paris.)

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