Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Prayers : Part Two : Prayers of Supplication - Things

It seems to me as I try to write about this, that there are any number of different sorts of "asking" prayers --but that it basically comes down to asking for "things" and asking for "circumstances", either for ones self, or for others.

Today I am thinking about asking for objects -- this is so thorny for me, coming from a Christian tradition originally (pre Vatican II , ethnic, RCC) in which asceticism was next to godliness. It is also hard for me as an American, living in a country of such plenty that it feels like an insult to the world at large to ask for something more.

First, does God even want to be asked for things? I love the book of Luke because it is so instructional about prayer - in it(Luke 1:1-ff) Luke speaks of Zacharias praying successfully for a child, but this is a far cry from "praying for stuff". I heard a conservative Christian once tell her child to pray that Baskin Robbins had her favorite flavor in stock, and that they would walk over there to see how well she had prayed. The hairs on my neck stood up. If they did have Vanilla Faith ice cream, what proof is that? Do we want to trouble God with requests for ice cream? Maybe the Roman Catholics are right to have saints, people who serve as more minor league prayer interceptors -- the Joseph who is willing to have statues of themselves placed upside down in the dirt when someone wants to have help selling a house -- the St Anthony who helps us find our misplaced TV Remotes or glasses -- the saints who field the prayer chaff from the prayer wheat, but who take it all in to heaven for consideration.

This is where I would love folks to chime in.

I understand and see in scripture God telling us to pray for what we need. The Lucan example I quite like is of the man whose friend comes to him at midnight after he is asleep asking for 3 loaves of bread. Jesus says that we will get out of bed and give in this circumstance not because the man is our friend, but because he needs the bread. I understand praying for what we need.

But then on the other hand, I believe that this is an abundant world, and so is it wrong to ask God to help find me the right house to buy? Is it wrong when so many people have nothing over their heads but suffering? Is it right to pray for more imbalance?

I can pray that my friends get "stuff" in some cases, but I really jam up if it is about me -- or if the "stuff" is stuff like the right flavor of ice cream.

Help me out here -- where are you all in this prayer issue?


Blogger alto artist said...

Thank you for all your comments and for helping me go further down this interesting, confusing road!... This and your previous post remind me of an exercise the ancient rabbis recommended and some people actually do--saying 100 blessings a day, finding 100 specific things for which to thank God. It sounds like it should be easy--we live in such abundance--but never is.

I never feel right asking for "stuff." I agree with you--It seems too chutzpadik. But I know my tradition encourages it; prayers for the healing of the sick happen every day. For the longest time I couldn't participate, and then one day realized that because the prayer was communal, by saying it I was announcing to others that I needed their help and strength. And standing up with a group and saying the prayer proved to me that I wasn't alone and so, in a sense, fulfilled it. A few years ago I was sick and tried to pray for my good health--it seemed the sensible thing to do--but couldn't stop thinking that the decision had already been made, so my asking was futile. I prayed, instead, for strength and love from everyone around me so that I could best deal with whatever happened. And it worked. Sometimes I think God will provide us with the stuff we ask for, if we can just figure out the best, least selfish, most beneficial to the entire world way to ask.

11:52 PM  
Anonymous Furious said...

I am not a religious person. To me, there is only one prayer, and that is Thank You. It seems to accomplish everything a prayer could and should accomplish. To me it means that whatever is is good enough. Whatever is will do.

11:53 PM  
Anonymous Evelyn said...

This prayer topic is of great interest to me, too. I'm a member of a 12-step organization, and I like the 11th step, which says "Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out." Knowledge of His will for us includes alot of "things"....... such as houses, etc. As long as that's not where our "treasure" is, then asking is not being selfish, as long as we're willing to accept "no" or "not now" as God's answer!
I hope to read more posts about this subject!
Happy Thanksgiving!

11:54 PM  
Blogger samtzmom said...

This reminds me of the line in the Mitford books when Father Tim says, "We just prayed the prayer that never fails." You don't find out until several books later that that prayer is "Thy will be done." I think that's how faith works. We lift up our intercessions, and then accept what the outcome is, like Evelyn said. Sometimes we don't even know that we got the outcome we needed at the time until much later. I don't necessarily pray for specific things, but tend to pray for discernment and for the path to be revealed to me. Happy Thanksgiving dear friend. You are such a blessing here in the blogosphere.

7:01 AM  
Blogger The Harbour of Ourselves said...

what was it Annie Lamott said, 'the best two prayers in the world are, "Help help help" and "Thank you thank you thank you"

8:54 AM  
Blogger Mata H said...

ALTO - Thanks so much for your comments -- I love this blog-o-logue we seem to have going :-)

By praying for "stuff" I mean objects (cars, houses, ice cream cones) more than conditions (health, peace etc) -- The latter I can deal with in most ways, the former makes me plain crazy. Yet, on my gratitude list would be many things as well.

I love what you said about the act of prayer, said communally, fulfilling itself by its very nature..well said!
FURIOUS: There is virtue indeed to keeping it simple. I have a hard time thanking G-d for the rough personal times, though I know I should. And it is impossible for me to thank G-d for someone else's hardship, or war, or such things, which I know you did not mean. It is just me thinking out loud about those things that I cannot say Thank You for.
EVELYN _ That is interesting, what you say about :treasure"...can you say more? Thanks.

SAMTZ _ You, too :-)


HofO - Amen amen amen.

10:10 AM  

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