Prayer and The Beautiful Consummation

When I was a kid, I used to pray to God and ask Him things like “Why?” I’d look up from my window and out into the stars and wait for an answer. Some things happened to me that shouldn’t happen to any child, and I was never quite able to figure it out. The people at the church right up the road always told me that God loved us, but I didn’t believe them. People that loved me would stop these things from happening, but only if they knew about them. So I guessed that maybe God loved me, but he just didn’t know. And as I looked up into the sky, the expanse of tiny dots scattered at innumerable distances from each other, I guessed that the reason I never got an answer to my questions was that the universe was too big, too big for even God to know the answers.”
“When I was a kid, I used to pray to God and ask Him things like “Why?” I’d look up from my window and out into the stars and wait for an answer. Some things happened to me that shouldn’t happen to any child, and I was never quite able to figure it out. The people at the church right up the road always told me that God loved us, but I didn’t believe them. People that loved me would stop these things from happening, but only if they knew about them. So I guessed that maybe God loved me, but he just didn’t know. And as I looked up into the sky, the expanse of tiny dots scattered at innumerable distances from each other, I guessed that the reason I never got an answer to my questions was that the universe was too big, too big for even God to know the answers.” – A Flock of Crows, Tim Hucks

In my childhood, I recall an emphasis on prayer. Prayer was everything. It was how we communicated with Jesus, how we discerned His will for our lives, and how we correctly interpreted His word. Prayer was the Swiss Army knife of the Christian life, which is why we were counseled by our elders to “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) I can remember songs like “I Go to the Rock” by Whitney Houston in The Preacher’s Wife or “Jesus on the Main Line” that emphasized the need to go to God in times of trouble. (This is probably the origination of phrases like “There’re no atheists in a foxhole”, which assumes that people return to God in times of trouble, an idea not without precedent, but not discussed right now.) But all you had to do was call God up and tell Him what you wanted. It was that simple.

So prayer was the golden calf of my youth. Imagine you’re just hearing about prayer for the very first time. A loving mother or father sits down with their child and tells them that the King of the universe, the jungle, and the sea is particularly interested in their life. They tell them that God is able to do everything, knows all of our most intimate desires, and cares so much about us that He knows the number of hairs on our head. Well, unlike adults, children haven’t had imagination beat out of them yet, so they go with what you’re telling them and apply it ruthlessly.

Can I run as fast as The Flash?

Can I be invisible?

I want to be able to breathe in outer space!

God can make me able to fly and tell the time using a bucket of ants!

I wanna melt things with my breath!

And had an actual child written these, they would be even more phantasmagorical, believe me. When you tell kids that the Almighty Creator can do anything and that He cares enough about them to want to make them happy, they’ll take you at your word and ask for anything, because they don’t think God has limits. Unfortunately, not every child’s mind will hop to something they read in a comic book. Remember, they think God can do anything.

Can you make Mommy and Daddy stop fighting?

I wish Terrence Shaw would stop hitting me at school.

God, can you make my brother Darrell’s ALS go away?

Please protect us from the bullets in the street tonight.

I want Mommy to stop doing bad things with me at night.

How does one answer these questions? You might argue that God is a God of cosmic justice, therefore it’s all about the beautiful end that He brings about to the grisly realities of the world. But is He not a present God? Does He not care for the suffering of His creation? Regardless of the fact that He understands, inhabits, and encompasses past, present, and future, He must surely understand that we do not. He must understand the very present nature of our troubles. Of course He does, He made us that way.

As Ivan notes in The Brothers Karamazov, “Listen! If all must suffer to pay for the eternal harmony, what have children to do with it, tell me, please? It’s beyond all comprehension why they should suffer, and why they should pay for the harmony….

And what do we answer to the child who asks us why God didn’t save them from a predicament, didn’t keep the one they loved alive, or stop others from brutalizing them? Were their steadfast supplications too quiet for Him to hear? Or “…peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.” (1 Kings 18:27) The One who cares about them far more than the sparrows, and fastened the foundations of the world, the One who is present with and in all things simply was not able to intervene or chose not to. Well, if we’re already committed to the story, what we say is the only hollow line we know, that the ends justify the means, and that the fairer world on high will wash away the ache in our hearts today. Or put a different way, “The things of Earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”

…And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.

This is the failure of prayer. And I surely wouldn’t expect God, should He exist, to favor me, who lives in outright rebellion against Him. I would, however, expect Him to stand and care for those that love Him the most. I’m an atheist for many reasons, but one of those is that I just don’t believe that the beautiful consummation, even if there were to be such a thing, would be worth the price.

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7 thoughts on “Prayer and The Beautiful Consummation”

  1. I think about a loving parent who desires to make their children happy. But sometimes children, if they had their wish, would have chocolate cake for breakfast, candy for lunch and ice cream for dinner. But would a loving parent honor this child’s wish, even though it may be in the parent’s means to provide it for them? If they love their child, absolutely not! So then why would God?

    If God was to provide for me all my heart desires at the moment I desire it, would that be beneficial for me? How spoiled will I become? How selfish would I serve myself? Am I to abuse God’s love in that way?

    Perhaps you might reason beyond our desires, and say, “What about my Mom who has Cancer, or my Dad who had a stroke? All I desire is for them to be healed!” But as with many things, a lot of our predicaments are brought on by the consequences of our choices. Sadly, the top killers such as Cancer, heart attacks, strokes, etc. are mostly attributed to our lifestyle choices and the Western diet. Is God to heal a person of high cholesterol without that person changing their diet? Should I expect God to heal me, even while I yet munch on my triple bacon cheeseburger? Should we expect God to bend His laws of biology for our own personal benefit?

    For me, I find that as I seek to live my life in harmony with His commandments, and live according to His principles in relationships and health, then my time on this earth, while not perfect, will be far more bearable.

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  2. 1 a) Did you just compare a child’s urge to eat chocolate all day with the earnest prayer to not be abused? Or have warring parents? Or have living ones? These are not flippant wishes, seeing as each of these categories create damages that are lifelong.

    1 b) Did you just blame cancer on a Western diet? “Sorry Tommy, your mom’s dying because of her own foolish choices.” Perhaps you didn’t mean it this way, but you have to understand how obscenely callous this sounds. It sounds like you can’t muster even an iota of empathy for any of the cases I described.

    2) “Should we expect God to bend His laws of biology for our own personal benefit?” Let’s take that a step further. What WILL God change for our benefit? What is the point of even saying that God is able to change our lives, but that we are not to ask Him to? And if His plan is so good and He’s really just gonna do what He’s gonna do anyway because we shouldn’t expect Him to change just for our personal benefit, why should we bother praying for anything at all?

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    1. 1 a) I don’t believe I said anything about children asking not to be abused. I was addressing the point why God may not answer prayer at times, especially when He loves us. We tend to think we know what’s best for us, but sometimes having the very things we want may not always be the best. This point does not address why bad things happen to good people.

      1 b) Certainly not all cancer, but any cancer developed during adulthood can be attributed to the build up of toxins in the body. There are many sources for toxins, the number one being the very foods we eat. Others include pesticides, pollution, fluoride in the water, ect. People die everyday of cancer, and while I wouldn’t call them “foolish” choices, since much of it is done in ignorance, it is very much attributed to a persons lifestyle. A good resource to consider is the Gerson Institute. http://gerson.org/gerpress/ They have been helping people be cured of cancer for decades.

      2) Who said we shouldn’t ask God to change our lives? Certainly not I. In fact I ask Him everyday to change me. I can think of lots of ways how God has changed me. And while I have experienced a plethora of personal growth since knowing Him, I cannot point to anything where His laws of nature were suspended. I don’t pray so that God changes to fit me, I pray so that I change to fit Him.

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