Pray for…yourself? July 20, 2010Posted by orualundone in Heart Condition, Lies, Lifescripts, Personal, Prayer, Truth.
Tags: fear, prayer, selfishness
It would be false to say that I do not pray very much. I pray quite often, in fact, and with great fervor. And yet I somehow manage to actually talk with God very little. My prayers are most often for other people, for my friends and family and others in this world who are troubled or hurt. When someone I care about is in pain, I hurt with them and I cry out to God their behalf. Many people think this is a great quality that I have, that it means I am compassionate and generous. But in reality it is more often a sign of my own weakness and fear.
I am not foolish enough to think prayer has no effect on God. Nor am I ridiculous enough to truly believe that God does not know others’ deepest needs and the ultimate path of their lives far better than I ever could. And yet in my prayers for others I so often outline to him specifically what I think that they need, or the way I want the situation to work out for them. What sounds so selfless and humble is, at the very heart, a selfish and prideful desire.
What I want is less the ultimate good of others and more for things to work out the way I think that they should, in a way that doesn’t threaten my view of how life should be. I want what I think is best for the people I care about and, thus, for myself. Because I am afraid of what will happen if things go differently than the way that I have in mind. In my deepest heart, I rate my own judgment higher than God’s. I don’t trust the Creator of the Universe to work all things together for the good. I prefer to try and take control, even in my prayers.
It’s incredibly arrogant of me. Instead of simply, lovingly bringing their needs before the throne and asking God to give them whatever is best for them, I try to control the situation. I have the nerve to go up to God and essentially say “Okay, this is how I think you should handle this because my limited perceptions can’t see a better way to resolve it.” Ballsy, huh?
And of course, all this prayer and fretting over others is a fantastic way to avoid talking to God about my own set of problems, fears, and neuroses. Not that I never go to God on my own behalf, though. Actually, I am constantly asking him for things. Usually when I have a problem, or when I fear things aren’t going to happen the way that I want them to in my own life. But that’s just it. I am not really praying for myself. I am praying for things that I want – or don’t want. And there is a word of difference between the two.
I want my life to go on a certain way, with a minimum of pain and fear and discomfort. When something threatens that, I turn to God to fix it. But I don’t turn to him to fix me. I don’t bring my brokenness before him and ask for healing. I don’t admit that I can’t see a way out of my darkness and beg him to show me his path for me. And I certainly don’t ask him what he wants from me. I give him my laundry list and say “I want this or nothing”.
That is not true prayer. In fact, with the except of a few fleeting, glimmering moments of raw and brutal clarity in my lifetime where I have really spoken honestly and listened intently to God, I have almost never experienced true prayer. I’m not even sure I know how to go about finding it. The habit of controlling and pleading and trying to get what I want is so ingrained, and the great unknown of letting go and letting God work is so frightening. I have seen others pray honestly that God would do whatever he wanted with them, no matter the cost. The results are often terrifying.
And yet, in all my imperfect, self-centered prayers, I would also be arrogant to think that they were so flawed that even God could not use them. Part of finding the meaning of truly trusting him and truly opening up my heart in honest prayer is to believe that he can use even the most selfish, the poorest prayers I have to offer. Even when I come to Him out of fear and uncertainty, out of blatant self-interest, out of a desire for control and safety, I have to believe that he can make something of that. And maybe that is the first step along the path.