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Prayer Quandries February 14, 2010

Posted by makingyourdashcount in Uncategorized.
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This has the potential to offend; if it offends you I apologize.  But I’ve always found the expression “I’ll pray for you,” curious and feel a need to write through this.  “I’ll pray for you” is an expression that has gained popularity in recent years; I never heard it as a child, even though I grew up in as religiously diverse a community as one could and attended a Methodist school.  Unfortunately,  this expression has been directed to me  many times in my life, from the loss of one of my brothers and daughter and difficult decisions in the final days of my mother’s life, but what does this really mean and what is the purpose of telling someone this sentiment?  Does one think that praying for someone will invoke divine intervention that will change outcomes?  Or is it really synonymous for “I’m thinking about you,” an emphatic note of support?

When Sarah was in elementary school, there was a mom’s prayer group that got together on Wednesday mornings at one of the member’s home to pray for the students and teachers of the school.  HUH?  Yes, there were at risk students there who could use divine intervention and I am sure there were teachers who could use divine guidance on how to work with these students; however, did these moms think that their prayer would make a difference?  If so, how?  Did they think that their prayers over coffee and cookies would do more than their sitting with these at risk students as tutors, like other moms did?  Obviously, or they would have tutored the students.

I have always ascribed to the concept of praying with one’s feet when there is a need for something.  Although I have found personal peace in the quiet action of praying, in finding that spiritual center, I have no expectations that prayer goes further than that. Prayer can bring a peace that helps one heal.  Prayer can bring peace to help one make tough decisions. But prayer without the right physicians will not cure a cancer;  prayer without antibiotics will not cure an infection.  Prayer without a check sent to a trusted agency does not rebuild homes.

So I am curious.  As tragedies unfold, why do people share the sentiment that they are praying?  Is it because that the action of prayer lets them feel as they are doing something to help remedy the tragic suffering of others?  Or do they think that their prayer will invoke a divine intervention?  Even more curious, why do FaceBook and other public prayer groups sprout?  Are they basically a communal concern group who feel a need to share with others but have no other outlet.  I wonder if the people who publicly pray understand that others “just don’t get it” and may feel put off by their intention, especially when those prayers are directed toward them.

When people have said to me,” I’ll keep you in my prayers,”  I’ve always translated that to I’ll be thinking about you and say thank you.  Maybe I do that because I understand that outreach.  I appreciate people’s empathy, even when there is little that they can do to remedy the situation.   But the outgrowth of public prayer groups was described by someone recently, who was the target of the prayers as “creepy.”  If it is seen as “creepy,” the purpose of the group must be more self centered than directed, since the recipient would prefer it not exist.  That is not a judgment, just a statement.

So I continue to struggle with the concept of communal prayer.  For if I were to believe in divine intervention, I would also have to accept that for some reason God hates our family, since we have had more than our fair share of challenges.  My mother once said, “I don’t believe in a God who micromanages.  God has more important things to do than meddle in my life.”  With that, I will still connect with the hurt and will step forward when financial assistance is needed in disaster, but I will keep my prayers to myself.