Dear God, praying makes no sense! (ok ok it does, but only kind of.)
get ready to be confused and not-inspired
I’d love to be able to inspire you today.
I’d love to lead you to a deeper understanding of God, and illustrate to you how much we are loved, and the beauty of being able to do the noble and difficult task of surrendering and aligning our will with the will of God.
I’d love to be able to write something that makes it all click.
But that’s not in the cards today. Today I’m going to make it make less sense.
I am going to write about praying. And I want to ask some questions that no logic can seem to answer for me.
(The kids use that to mean “in case you missed it”)
My spiritual backstory, if you haven’t heard me explain it yet, is that I used to be super “spiritual but not religious” — what Christians call “new age.” I was into mantras, law of attraction, trying to be high vibe, energy work, blah blah blah. Frankly, I was into mildly witchy shit.
The idea was that I could “pray” or rather, command the universe, through different energetic and spiritual practices like mantras or meditation, and attract whatever I wanted. Depending on which spiritual teacher you were following, there was occasionally talk of surrendering to the Highest Good, or whatever, but the general idea was that if I believed enough, and “prayed” and “mantrad” right, I could do or have, or heal anything.
In the last year, I came to believe that those particular spiritual practices I was doing, were actually kind of like… witchcraft and occult-lite. You know.. trendy “white magic.” Basically, I was trying to be my own God, and bend the “universe’s” will to my own. And not only that, but even worse, that there really was a battle between good and evil, and many of my spiritual practices were opening up doors to let demonic entities into my life. No matter how much on the “good” side I thought I was. Basically, I came to believe that demons are not just a metaphor. They’re… real. And they’re tricksters.
And yea, I know that unfortunately sounds like something a paranoid cult leader believes.
But… you can read about it more here:
ANYWAY. In response, I did an enormous amount of research, and ended up where I never expected to end up: Christian. I couldn’t even use the word Christian until… 3 months ago?
A huge shift for me, spiritually, was being willing to surrender my will to God’s will. To see God as a personified, loving creator, who knows me and cares about me, and knows what’s best for me. I came to believe that God is the only one who can really protect us from the demonic, even though I’d been told that I could do it by myself before, with like… burning sage and imagining a white shield around me or whatever tf I was doing.
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It was actually a huge relief to realize that I don’t have to be my own God, and that I can actually surrender. I’d been doing a version of surrender before. A surrender to “life.” A surrender to… the universe. But this one is deeper. This one is personal. I somehow have even more trust in this one, because it is so personal. I am able to be taken care of and guided and protected, all I have to do is turn to God, and… ask.
And yes, in the process of surrendering my life to God, I’m also being asked and expected to like… become a better person and stuff. Which is the hard part. God made me apologize to my neighbors, etc. But the easy part, the beautiful part, if you can shift your thinking: is that we are not in charge, God is. (Well, in one way that’s horrifying to people. And in other ways, it’s wonderful. You can surrender. Really truly.)
Not only that, but to get even more specific (and for some, more cringey and triggering) I now believe that God so loved the world that he came down to earth as a human, died, defeated death, and reversed the curse that happened in the beginning of time/the Bible, so now, through him, we get to live forever again and stuff. Weird. I know. I don’t even know if I want to live forever. And to be honest, Adam and Eve is still… weird to me. But whatever. Adam and Eve is one of the outstanding questions I am putting aside, because the shift in my joy and peace and hope has been profound.
The reason I believe in this weird ass story in the first place, is because of how much calmer I am now. How much better my sleep is. And… because I now believe in demons.
Really, I actually believe I was at least mildly demonically “oppressed” because of all the witchy stuff I did over the years. (Not possessed, just more like… messed around with). And I don’t feel that way anymore. I feel freed. I also had a humungous shift in my anxiety. It is almost completely gone. So, in addition to all of the research I’ve done that actually gives credence to the New Testament, I do believe.
It’s just… such a strange story. I get stuck on it like… of course people don’t believe this. It sounds insane. It’s so specific and strange and hinges on a blood sacrifice and an unseen spiritual kingdom of heaven, filled with angels and demons. I tell God this all the time: Why did you have to make it so weird. Why did you have to make it so hard to believe. Why did you have to make the Bible so hard to read? Why is life so confusing and hard. Why are you usually so hard to hear? Why why why.
Really, traditional Christianity makes almost no sense if you don’t believe in a spiritual battle happening in the spiritual realm. And, believing in a spiritual battle happening in the spiritual realm sounds crazy. But I have heard and seen enough to believe in actual, personified demonic entities. With will. With personality. I believe it. And I STILL think it sounds crazy. But, once you believe it, Christianity makes more sense: Jesus defeated Satan with his death and resurrection, so if we surrender to his authority, we are under his dominion, and not the demonic, and boom, we are protected from it. But we have to… choose it. (Then we have to like… also become better people, which, again, is the hard part. But God helps you, which again is the good part.)
Anyway, I could go on and on, and hopefully one day I will, but I really want to talk about prayer. Because… I have questions.
I’m faced with a new question… how and why do I pray, if God is in control of everything? And it’s his will that matters most?
I know a big part of the answer: most of my prayers are actually supposed to be about God helping ME to surrender my own will to his. “God, change me, so I become a better person and accept your will for me.” That makes sense. And I accept that.
That is, again, the big shift between my spiritual approach before, being my own god and bending the world to fit my will, and my approach now: surrender and acceptance.
But we are also told to, and allowed to… pray for … things that we want or need. Healing. Provision. Love. Even parking spots. Just… general help. We are allowed to pray for help. And blessings. And I believe I have experienced God helping, through the years. A lot. In fact, that’s why I’ve always believed in God. He has always seemed to help. Even when I strayed really far.
I also believe in miracles. Small miracles. Big miracles. Healing miracles that doctors can’t explain. Supernatural miracles that people write off as impossible and forget about quickly. Answers to prayers that are beyond what anyone thinks is possible. I really truly do believe. I’ve heard enough and I’ve seen enough.
But the confusing part for me, is this balance between God’s will, and our will. How does the prayer and miracle thing fit into that?
Literally, Jesus all but says to bug God so much that he answers your prayer:
Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith. Matthew 21:21-22
Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence. Or in order to avoid shame, or so his reputation won’t be damaged.
“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Luke 11: 5-10
And I also know, that God does not always come through with the answer to the prayer that we want. Sometimes we don’t get the miracle. Sometimes, what we are asking for doesn’t line up with God’s will. We don’t get the healing. Sometimes, God answers our prayer with: sorry you don’t get the promotion, but I’m gonna make you a better person. And you’re like wow thanks God.
And sometimes still, we suffer really horribly. And sometimes that suffering brings us closer to God. And makes us a better person.
And… sometimes we … die and stuff, even when people were praying. Even people with faith.
And that is… back to God’s will… I suppose. That we suffer and learn. And… sometimes die.
Or maybe it’s not, maybe it’s not God’s will that we suffer, just that we … learn to lean on him. And I know that this is where people start to question God.
So let me take a little detour from talking about prayer, just to address this for a second.
I know that human suffering is one of the biggest resistances to believing in God. Or the existence of a good and loving God at all. If there is a God, why is there suffering? If God is so GREAT then why does he let us suffer like this?
They’re good questions. They seem to be the biggest questions that people have that barr them from believing in God.
God, where are you?!
And then, a lot of times, when people really ask in earnest: God where are you? God shows up.
Maybe not in the big way we were hoping for, but in a way that is enough… oh? There you are? Is it you? Am I going crazy? But no, there is enough in us that knows it was him. It was God.
I think that’s mostly what Jesus means by: ask and it is given. Ask for God, and you’ll get God. You may not get everything you want. Or everything you think you want. But you will get God, if you seek him.
I’ve also heard enough people tell their stories — you know the ones, the drug addict to Jesus stories. The childhood abuse stories. I’ve heard people talk about the most horrific abuse and pain and suffering, and in their story, they are able to see how much better life got when they let God in. When they let God save them. That God changed their heart, and healed their pain and their past. It’s hard to put their words into my words here, but these stories illustrated to me that God wants to heal our hearts. And that even so many of these people who’ve been through the worst things, don’t hold it against God, and that it’s clear how much better life gets, when we aren’t turning our backs on God, but instead … learn lean on God.
Again, sometimes Christianity makes more sense, if this world we live in is under demonic reign. That’s why it’s so messed up. That’s why there is so much pain. There is death and pain. And then we turn our lives over to God, who was always there saying: Hey, I can help. Helloooo, I will help you. And we are like NO I want to go have sex with satan! And he is like Ohhhh don’t do that. And we are like NO I like drugs! Anyway. It makes more sense that way… but … unfortunately it still sounds whack to your average secular humanist, or whatever people are these days.
So anyway, back to praying.
I will admit, much to the dismay of my protestant readers, that I do a lot of research on Catholicism, trying to make sense of it all, and decide which way I want to practice my faith.
One of the big hangups Protestants have and I have with Catholicism, is that Catholics pray to (which, to be clear, “pray” does not mean worship, it means “to ask”) Mary, and to saints, for their prayers, for us.
Which then brings up the question, ‘ok, why would you pray to Mary for prayers, when you can just pray straight to God?’
And Catholics say, ‘uh, I dunno man, why do you ask your friends to pray for you, if you can just pray straight to God?’
And, it’s a good comeback. If the saints are alive and we are all in the Kingdom of Heaven, doing God’s will and stuff… then in theory, you could ask both friends and saints who are alive in heaven to pray for us.
But this actually brings up an even bigger question for me…
WHY DO WE NEED OUR FRIENDS TO PRAY FOR US AT ALL?
Let me write that again, but bigger.
WHY DO WE NEED OUR FRIENDS TO PRAY FOR US AT ALL?
Hear me out.
Does God not hear us? Is one singular person’s prayer to God, not enough? Does God not hear us when we pray, just to him? Does he not answer prayers that only we ask? (He does! We know he does!) So, WHY does God need us to get other people in on our prayers? Does more people praying, supercharge the prayer? Isn’t so much of this prayer thing, and life thing, about surrendering to God’s will? SO HOW DOES SUPERCHARGED PRAYERS MAKE SENSE? They do not.
I want to be very clear… I know and believe in the power of prayer. I believe that people praying for you is very helpful. I believe it does something. I’m not sure what it does. But I believe it. But I still have to ask… why? How?
I also want to be clear that I am mostly just throwing a little tantrum. Because sometimes I get very annoyed that God makes no sense.
There are also some Christians who legit believe in predestination. Calvinists. They believe everything is predetermined. I particularly despise the idea of that, and it removes the feeling that anything matters at all. That our choices matter and have consequences. And yet, CALVINISTS still ask their friends to pray for them. But why would they, if everything is predetermined?
…Side note, here I am sending a voice memo to my friends about pre-destination. Sometimes I like to tell my friends, and God, the way IIIIII think it should be. Take notes, God!
But let’s actually get back to my point, and make things less extreme.
Say things are not predetermined. Say that our choices really do matter and that we can change outcome with prayer… isn’t that still kind of… trying to circumvent and override the will of God? Where is the LINE between asking for help and blessings, and trying to override the will of God?
(To be honest, this whole concept actually made more sense to me, when I believed in mantras and the law of attraction. It made more sense that the more people putting intention behind something, could make it more likely to happen.)
Lets use prayers for healing, for example. Say we have a chronic condition that we are asking God to heal, or guide us to heal. That’s not particularly selfish, I don’t think. We aren’t asking for a mansion for no reason, we are asking for physical healing so we can participate in this life fully, and without pain. Some people heal in response to their prayer. I believe it. But some people don’t.
Me? I’ve had some small healings that seems miraculous. I also have things that I’ve been asking God to heal that he, so far, has not.
So, if I have been asking to be healed, and I have not been, is then asking friends to pray for my healing, trying to override the will of God in an extreme way? Can’t be. Because God often answers prayers when many people are praying.
Then again, sometimes he doesn’t. And therein lies the will of God.
Or …does God WANT us to ask and ask and ask. To not give up. Does God want us to show faith through prayer? Through not giving up?
And honestly, this is a practical question too, because when praying for other people, even people in dire and difficult circumstances I find myself saying things like… “God I don’t know what they need, but… you do so, please… help them?” Or even, “God please let them heal, or like… I mean, I don’t know what your will is, but please help them, according to your will. Help them heal! If it is your will!”
Which brings me to an even bigger topic: that I don’t know how to pray and much of my prayers are awkward and silly and stupid sounding. But that’s a topic and problem for me to tackle another time.
I’m writing this mostly as a way to start a (paywalled) conversation about prayer. Also to show you that, though I’ve had a conversion in the last year, I spend a lot of my time praying to God about how I don’t know how to pray and don’t understand anything, but thanks for the sunshine and for the fact that you healed my sleep after 15 years.
But as for the convo about prayer, I’d love for you to weigh in in the comments.
I also asked you guys to weigh in in a paywalled chat a few days ago, and these were some of the responses:
Part of me thinks it’s about sharing burdens and asking others to pray maybe helps us feel like we aren’t carrying the load alone. I do believe God hears my prayers when I pray solo, and I don’t know that my prayers are heard any more strongly by God just because multiple people are doing it.... but it might help show God and in turn ourselves how desperate for help and support we are when we ask others to pray for us. - Brooke
I think I think of it like a parent-child dynamic... we don’t always *need* our kids to talk to us, ask us for things, etc., but we want them to. And while we sort of already have a plan in mind for our kids, it’s also flexible according to what they communicate to us. It’s relational. Our plans for them flex as our relationship with them deepens and they let us know what they want and need. I also think there’s mystery here. -
The parents comparison is always helpful when thinking about God, but that changes the game a little from the idea that God has a will and a plan, and I just need to surrender to it. It changes it to me being allowed to ask and change things. And I still don’t really know how it works.
Again, it’s that balance between what is God’s will, and how much am I allowed to insert my will into this life thing? I suppose you could say… if you ask God for something, over and over and over, and you don’t get it… it’s not God’s will.
Again, I am mostly just complaining about the mysteries of life. I know the basic answer. It’s:
Ask God for what you want and need. And also ask God to show you what his will is for you, and to help you to surrender to it. Pray for the things your friends need too. …Who knows what will happen with those prayers, just do it anyway.
Thank God for the good things.
Rinse and repeat.
The answer is… it may never fully make sense. Who knows if it was God’s plan all along that we pray and pray and get our friends to pray and pray, to build our faith, and in praying for others, get us to think about other people. Only to finally surrender to God’s will, and boom, he always knew he would answer the prayer all along.
Who knows if God will change his mind based on our prayers.
Who knows if God will listen and say: sorry guys, I have a plan that may not make sense to you now, but one day, I promise, it will.
“God, please explain all of this to me, and if not, I guess I surrender to the fact that you won’t explain everything to me.”
Ok… that’s it for now…
Sorry/you’re welcome for an insane and disjointed and confused post about prayer.
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(Paywall below is to paywall my voiceover)