December 09, 2014

Recovering Christian: Sometimes I catch myself praying, and it reminds me of how selfish I can be.

I consider myself a "recovering Christian."

It's not insult to Christianity--rather, it's an acknowledgement of the all-consuming nature of Christian belief. That nature is a difficult thing to break away from.

There are very few habits that I still cling to from that period in my life. Occasionally, for instance, I am gripped by an incredible fear of Hell. After spending so many of my formative years in front of pulpit after pulpit where the horrors were described in terrifying detail, it's a fear that's still deep in my spirit and my psyche.

Another habit, one that's a bit surprising even to me, is that I still catch myself praying sometimes.

And it's never, ever, a positive, altruistic prayer, embarrassingly enough.

It's always when I am running late--"Please please please please please make this car in front of me hurry up," or, "Please don't let the light turn red." Or it's when I just need something to happen-- "Please let my partner's new job start soon, we could really use the pay raise."

It's never for kids around the world--or even our own nation--that are starving to death. It's not for the sick or the injured or the dying. It's not for war-torn nations and their populations trying to recover and survive another day.

Nope. It's because I didn't leave home at the time I needed to. It's because I overslept. It's because I need something, or want something.

It honestly reminds me of how selfish I am, as an individual, and how selfish my belief was. How arrogant my belief was.

To claim that I, such a selfish, narcissistic creature, had the knowledge of absolute truth. The only right way to survive eternity.

Such arrogance. Truly.

What is prayer, but us saying, "This situation is important to me and so it should be important to my god"?

Truthfully, is there any way to argue that it is more than that?

If you are, for instance, praying for an individual with cancer--does that individual suddenly become more important to God than other individuals with the same disease? If a family loses a member to the disease, are they suddenly more important than other families who've lost loved ones? Are they more important, safely here in the US, than a family in Syria, or Nigeria, or Iraq, dealing with the daily threat of violence? What are the priorities here?

And there are those who argue that prayer isn't meant to be used that way. It's not a wish list--you pray for strength to get through the situation, you pray for peace while you (or the individual you are praying for) are suffering.

But in Matthew 7:7, Jesus himself says:

7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 
8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. 
Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? 
10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? 
11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

Even the Lord's prayer asks for our daily bread. In Gethsemane, he asked for the cup to be taken from him if possible.

It certainly seems, then, like we are allowed to ask for what we want.

And yet, in this simple, basic tenet of faith, I find yet more evidence of my own selfish nature--a gift of natural selection.


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