I believe in a Creator of the universe at least 95% of the time. (I admit to doubts some of the time – at different times of my life.) I believe this Creator, God, is unconditional Love and wants the best for each of us. What I’m less sure of is the Creator’s direct intercession in our measly day-to-day lives.
In the last week, I’ve received several prayer requests for persons I know but also a few of the ones that are the equivalent of email blackmail. (“If you send this on to 10 of your nearest and dear some lovely thing will happen 10 minutes after you hit ‘Send,’ but if you don’t do it, something horrible will happen.”) Plus, I’ve received a couple of reports that prayer has resulted in a healing or, at least, a temporary reprieve (remission). Believe me when I say I’m genuinely happy for any one and any family that does not have to face the loss of a deeply loved family member, and I’m happy to add my prayers to the legions who are praying for a particular person. But I do wonder.
I know many prayed for Brandon throughout his illness – for remission, for healing, for cure. His name was on the lips of many in prayer groups and on those of an extensive network of relatives and friends. There were literally legions around the globe remembering him daily in prayer. Did we/they do something wrong? Were there not enough of us? Does God only listen to the prayers of certain people? Does there have to be a certain number praying? Do they have to achieve a particular level of fervor?
What kind of God is that? That's not the God I can trust - not the God I can (or do) believe in. So I'm having difficulty contemplating the power/influence of intercessory prayer these days. Three of the four gospels have a variation of Matthew 7:7-8, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” These sentences seem to apply to intercessory prayer, but is this what they mean?
We asked (specifically). We sought (specifically). We not only knocked, we f’’n’g pounded on the f’n’g door. Last May when it was obvious that Brandon’s physical health was “declining” (what a genteel word), I f’n’g begged (again) to “let this cup pass” by Brandon and come to me instead. I begged to take Brandon’s place; I’d lived a fuller life, our children were adults, and Brandon had so much life yet to live with his wife and daughter.
Prayer is talking to God, the Creator, and that’s a step forward. Actually, I think life is a prayer/conversation with one’s Creator. Still, I must say the most prayerful moments for me have not been ones when I felt I was initiating a conversation with the Creator. Rather the most profoundly prayerful moments are ones in which I knew my Creator was reaching out to me, including an experience that happened within moments or minutes of Brandon’s birth. (I will definitely cover that experience in a future post.)
None of us gets out of this life alive – at least in the way we’re familiar with. And time in the overall universe means something quite different than the clock time we’re familiar with. So pardon my moi, but WTF is the meaning and possibly the point of intercessory prayer?
I do better when I think of prayer – and life on earth – differently. Reincarnation and a belief that each of us chooses a particular life based on issues we want to work on or a lesson we want to learn makes a lot of sense to me and did long before Brandon’s cancer was diagnosed. The idea that Brandon chose the challenge of a potentially lethal disease at a young age, that I perhaps wanted or needed to explore empathy through a child’s serious illness and/or death, and that others with close relationships to him chose related themes, is one of the more comforting concepts for me. Whether it is factual or not, I can’t say. Who am I to speak for God? (I don’t claim to know whether reincarnation is factual any more than I can claim to know the mind of God. Just saying I put no limitations on a Creator and I’m open to reincarnation, as it makes as much sense as the beliefs I was brought up with.)
So it isn’t that I think prayer doesn’t matter – that it’s a bust. I’m trying hard, so very, very hard, to let go (not there yet), accept (not there yet) and truly mean (not there yet) "not my will but yours be done..." a phrase that I think I’m understanding more deeply and I believe is the crux of pretty much everything. But I’m having a very tough time contemplating the meaning of intercessory “Ask and it will be given you” prayer. (If you have an answer, a thought, a comment, etc. of what it means, I’m very open to whatever you write, but please post it as a comment here and NOT on my FB page.)