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.