Joe has written an honest and insightful reflection on prayer. What he thinks it is and isn’t. He shares from his personal experience, so I’ll share from mine.
When I was a kid growing up in Rhode Island, most of us had a brightly colored ‘Rabbits foot’ tied to our bicycle handlebars. The idea was that the ‘rabbits foot’ was a talisman to bring good luck.
Many of us look to prayer in the same way. It is tied in with a common construct of God, that if we say the magic words then God will answer.
But I’ve been a pastor for over thirty years. I’ve prayed a lot of prayers for healing that have gone unanswered. At least in the way I hoped for. God as a lucky ‘rabbits foot’ didn’t come through.
So does that mean that prayer doesn’t work or that God is simply a figment of my imagination? In response, I’ve found that my concept of prayer and the God to which I often pray, has evolved.
I have come to see God as a creative, loving presence whose desire is to accompany and bless. Foundational is the Biblical teaching in the Gospel of John and 1 John that ‘God is love’.
I can’t scientifically prove, quantify or objectively measure this. But I know it to be true. It is based on my experience many times over, of being graced with a ‘felt presence’ that brought comfort, strength and a measure of peace when I needed it most. I’ve seen this same loving presence bless others too.
For me prayer is a means of opening up to a holy, loving presence. A divine presence that cannot be confined by religious dogma or by any one religious tradition. Prayer is a portal into that great mystery we call God.
I’m a Christian and for me my path toward understanding God and learning to walk a path of faith, is in the story and witness of Jesus. But I know the Jesus path is simply a pointer, toward that cosmic mystery which brought the world, including you and me, into being.
Prayer as a practice is a means of opening my mind, heart, hands and imagination to the gift of being alive. And, a way during hard times to remind us that we are not alone. Not forgotten. Prayer also reminds me to be open to the needs of others…to be open to the pain and struggle of another.
There’s so much more I’d like to say in response to Joe’s well written and honest posting. Perhaps we can go back in forth in a future posting. But for the moment let me respond to the timeless question which Joe poses: ‘Why does God allow bad things to happen?’
To this question I don’t have a good answer. I wish I did. In truth the question is mine as well.
But I think there is a different but related question: ‘Where is God when bad things happen?’. To that question I have an answer. It is based not on theory but as I mentioned upon my experience. God is with me (and I believe with you). In the midst of the hard times as well as the good. Sometimes I sense God is even carrying me. It is to this God that I pray.
The extraordinary and wise Elie Wiesel died at the age of 87. As a youth he was incarcerated in a Nazi concentration camp where he watched most of his family die. He was often cited as an icon of a reasonable loss of faith. There is a terrible moment in his memoir of the Holocaust, Night, when he watches a young boy die slowly by hanging and repeats the question posed by someone in the crowd: “Where is God now?” Wiesel writes, “I heard a voice within me answer him. Where is He? He is hanging here on this gallows…”
What do you think? What concept of God do you pray? And, for you ‘where is God now?’
May grace and peace be yours.