Prayer

Does g-d answer prayer?

As I child I was told to place all of my cares and worries on g-d through prayer. Anything would be open to ask, but it was g-d that decides to answer or not. Prayer was expected to be at least a daily activity, and was encouraged to be done spontaneously throughout the day.

I was also told that prayer had a few conditions that you had to meet before g-d would be willing to hear you. You had to be currently “free from sin.” So I was told to confess any wrongs to g-d before he would be able to hear me.

I can remember my father also adding the idea that we need to have no sin left unconfessed against others before g-d would also be open to hear us. To me this was one of the most horrifying things that I was expected to do. I was to confess anything I had done: lie, cheat or other “sin” to my parents or other people that I wronged. I can remember long nights of feeling guilt over something I had done but not confessed to my parents.

Honesty and purity of heart involve continual admission and confession of sin to appropriate people in our lives.

John Piper.

In my personal life this lead to a lot of worry about my sin disconnecting me from g-d. Or that some unknown sinful action would separate me from being able to talk with g-d. I’m personally a bit of a worrier so this led to a bit of a compulsive tick in my prayer life. Every time I prayed I would ask g-d for forgiveness for any sin I committed or any sinful thought I may have entertained. I also asked for forgiveness for any sin I might have committed unwarily (can’t be too sure).

So after you removed all the sin in your life then you could talk to g-d, right? Yes and no, you could talk to g-d. But he may or may not answer you prayer. But, hey, at least he hears you now.

What does it take for g-d to answer your prayer? Well I was told for it to be something that g-d will actually answer it has to be “in His will.” But that phrase has a lot of connotation. To be “in the will of g-d” you have to be acting and thinking how g-d would want you to. You had to be so holy you understood how g-d acted and thought.

So if your prayer is unanswered I was told it could be because of sin in your life, a improper lifestyle / thought life, or just that g-d has other plans. G-d was given that excuse or way out at any point. Because anything that happened was g-d’s will.

G-d was above explanation or reason in my fundamental life. He could, and would, do whatever he wanted; and he did not need to explain himself. If he didn’t want to answer then a Christian should be happy with that response. Because that was the will of g-d.

Anything positive that happened was attributed to an answer to prayer. And the lack of response or answer was just to be accepted as “g-d answer.” I think most Christian’s are just taught what to see as a “response” and learn to attribute anything good that happens after a prayer to g-d. Anything negative or contrary to the prayer is determined as being a “no” or just that it wasn’t “g-d’s will.” So g-d gets credit for the positive, but is able to slide past any responsibility for anything not positive.

In my own personal prayer life, anytime I requested something from g-d I was treated with silence. I certainly tried to improve myself and remove sin from my life so he would be willing to hear me, but still he remained silent. I asked him to easy my anxiety “gave it to him,” but still it remained. I have many prayers that I prayed to the divine, but looking back now I feel like I was only addressing the void.

As I’ve questioned the idea of g-d and prayer. I only have more questions. Why does one person get an “answer,” and another person get nothing. If g-d has power to intervene and help us then why doesn’t he answer prayer. Especially the prayers of the needy and dying. There are people who are praying for another meal, and will never receive an answer. People in an oncology floor that will daily cry out for healing only to die weeks later.

I’m still open to the idea of a divinity but definitely not convinced that there is evidence for one (agnostic if I had to put a term to it). But I cannot comprehend that this idea of a divinity is able to or has the power to act on our behalf as we request aid. The world does not show proof of that, nor does my own life show evidence that the divine is willing to answer.

I now look at prayer as a type of self meditation. What am I requesting or asking for? Why is that? What am I really looking to change?

Instead of looking to a divine power to make changes. I proposition that we instead enact that change ourselves in the world. Instead of telling someone who is in pain “I’ll pray for you” take time to listen to their pain. Instead of thoughts and prayers after a tragedy why not get your community together and help them, and work to create an environment where the weak and victims will be safe.

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