On prayer and the “randomness of the world”

After yesterday’s post, I saw several others that led to a related tangent. Clearly, others saw it too, as Gretchen so astutely commented, noting:

“Recently, there was an airplane that nearly crashed into a couple’s suburban bedroom. The owners were talking to reporters, saying something like “there were angels watching over us today”, and I thought, but what about the pilot and passengers who died? Did God forget about assigning them angels? I know it’s different than what is described in your post, but it seems to be the same thinking. People are so self-preserving and so accustomed to owing positive outcomes to strength, perseverance or God, that they simply cannot see the randomness of the world. Until it happens to THEM.”

A friend then sent me a link to this article, which she thought would resonate with me. It’s one woman’s reaction as to how it feels to have someone say “I’ll pray for you.” The author has just had her fourth miscarriage, and the woman wants to pray for an end to her infertility troubles. Sounds innocuous, hopeful, and even helpful, right? Well, sort of.

Instead, says the author, “To admit that God has the power—as he gave the matriarch Sarah a baby at the ripe old age of 90—would be to say he has denied me. That he has denied everyone who is suffering, people who have more problems than I do—I, who have my health, my husband, my friends, my work, and a full life… I wanted to be more like Job and tell this baker woman not to bother. Because to pray for me would be to admit that a decree must be reversed. That I am being punished. That I did something wrong. She was going to intercede on my behalf? No thank you, Job says, I have done nothing wrong.”

“I’ll pray for you” can be said with so many tones. Some people say this to mean “I’m thinking about you” with no real intention of directed prayer. And there are actually scientific studies that a person who prays heals more quickly than one who doesn’t, so I believe in the power of positivity as akin to that. More on that in the next post. But I no longer believe prayer “gets” you anything or “saves” anyone. When “I’ll pray for you” is said with a tone of pity, then I get angry, like the author.

Unfortunately, the bible supports the “ask and you shall receive” view if you read it selectively, as most people do, in Psalms, in the New Testament (see Matthew 7:7, for example). So they assume that if you pray sincerely, you will get what you pray for, and if you don’t the outcome you hoped for, then you did something wrong, it was your fault, or you’re not in God’s graces.  People who have not had the experience of praying intently for something important and having it not “be given unto them” resort to these platitudes and assume they must be right, but those of us who prayed intently for a dying baby know that prayer doesn’t, can’t work that way. These pitying pray-ers simply cannot see or refuse to believe that the world can just be random. That it comes down to luck. That God doesn’t work the way they think. And while I hope they are never disabused of this notion, I also hope they are, just so they can see through my eyes for a moment.

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6 Responses to On prayer and the “randomness of the world”

  1. meghanoc says:

    This is good. So good. So much power in those simple words “ill pray for you” and “angels weee watching over us.” The subtext is huge for those of us who didnt have angels watching over. I often struggle with the idea that people think i did something wrong/didnt deservr good things, when they somehow think similar things couldnt hsppen to them. So this is good. Well articulated.

  2. sheriroaf says:

    Reblogged this on mybennybear and commented:
    For someone that doesn’t have a whole ton of religious faith, but believes in something greater, this speaks to me. I never stopped begging God, my mother, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends in heaven to save Benny during the ambulance ride. Parker I didn’t speak, I just begged and begged over and over. Bennett wasn’t saved, there was no miracle. We were left to try to figure this out on our own. Randomness is 100% correct, that is the only way I can wrap my head around any of what happened. ‘I’ll pray for you’ is often said to us, and I do appreciate the thought, the sentiment behind it, but I know first hand that it cannot change what we’ve been through. What makes me truly angry are the ‘everything happens for a reason’ people. Screw you and your platitudes, if it were your child, I doubt that you could understand and accept that so easily.

    I do try to remain positive and faith in something greater, but it’s a struggle. I’m able to look at the fact that I have Darcy and live for her. I am lucky to be married to the most amazing man, who never once placed any type of blame or regret on my shoulders and has done everything in his power to work with our family over the last year. These are great thing in my life, amazing things. They don’t change the fact that Bennett is gone and no amount of faith or prayer will ever bring him back. I miss him everyday.

  3. sheriroaf says:

    I’m sharing on my blog, this is very insightful. Thank you for this.

  4. kaitlynva says:

    I really appreciate this post. You are so right, people don’t realize that the world is completely random until it strikes very close to home. I was thankful to find the book When Bad Things Happen to Good People by a rabbi, Harold Kushner, who lost his son at 14 years old. It made me realize that I’m not bad or wrong for having thoughts and feelings like the ones you refer to. Everyone’s biggest “blessings”, in my view, have far more to do with luck and less to do with intention.

  5. Pingback: Sunday Synopsis | Expecting the Unexpected

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