Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Other adherents will offer this option to me, “If you only would trust your heart, then you would know that God is real.” To this I say, “I have followed what I felt was the Lord's leading in my life for many things as surely as you feel that you are now.” This also includes for family, friends, in jobs, relationships, where to go for trips and much more. There is not a single area that I didn't try to “bring under” the power of God. Even my marriage. But the facts of reality must be faced and there is no reason to hold on to ideas that continually show themselves to be invalid and even harmful to follow.
During times of prayer, devotion and faith, I had many good times and made great friends. But I will leave discussion of that for another time and place. One highlight I want to touch on is prayer. Prayer seems to be central to almost all faiths; so I feel this is a crucial area to write about. As far as I know, there is no religion that doesn't, at some point or in some way advocate prayer. Therefore, this is the reason I am picking this as a common thread that runs through all faiths worldwide. I was a “prayer warrior” as the term is used. I prayed before every meal, in public, in private, with friends, with family, and everywhere. Who knows how many people I may have offended by my display of piety. I felt it was the right thing to do. Sometimes an older person would say to me when I was leaving a restaurant, “how refreshing it was to see a young man praying in public”.
Both The Navigators and COPWOC encouraged a good prayer life. With The Navigators, it was more of a prayer diary or prayer list, faithfully kept; plus taking time out once a week to focus your prayer life. For me, I usually took Saturday morning at a park or a restaurant. I liked parks more because I could actually walk around while I prayed. It was quite structured, as well. I would normally take about five minutes per topic and continue throughout the hour. I would use Bible verses. [I assume this was done to remind God what he said and let him know that I knew he could answer my prayer.] I used a standard opening, praising God and all his wonderment ; then for my friends and the family; spreading and sharing the Gospel of Christ. I also took a few minutes to pray for the government and work and all the things that affected my life. While this was normally done alone, a friend or two of mine would often go to the park. We would pick out different sides to “stake out” so we wouldn't interrupt each other or get distracted by talking about things.
By the height of my prayer life, I was probably praying about four to five hours a week, which to me was just part of the 16.8 hours I owed God for a tithing of my time. After all, if all things were from God, time definitely is one of the most valuable things that God can give us. So, I gave back to God time he gave me. This may be why I find the time spent in worship and prayer so wasted. Even if you,re reading a comic book, I feel you are better using your time, than wasting it on a God that can do nothing for you.
After I spent my hour praying on Saturday, it was usually time to have a meal. When I was attending Kansas State University, we often had weekend get together that included grilling and games of either volleyball and/or Frisbee. Saturdays were pretty fun days, normally speaking. It sure was a point of secret pride, when I mentioned that during my quiet time I received a certain insight from the Lord. Being able to share a spiritual message was vital to being in the loop of The Navigators group.
With COPWOC, [Cathedral of Praise World Outreach Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma], the focus of prayer was more like the way that you prayed, having a prayer language, speaking in tongues, creating an actual prayer closet so you could be left alone while you prayed. Of course the content was important, but not as important as letting the Holy Spirit move you to follow its lead in your prayer. The prayer language was one that was not needed but greatly moved you into the higher levels of the pentecostal and fundamental churches. I attended the A.C.T.S. Group at COPWOC and before the Monday night service, they had a smaller meeting of the more devout. This was where people could show their stuff. I quickly found out that my way of praying was something that made me stand out. I was able to clearly think and speak the dogma of calling down blessings and binding the various spirits that we tended to bind with our ineffectual words. It was always odd to me to bind spirits, such as fear, weakness, timidity, pride, along with the spirits of cancer, mental illness and other actual sickness that needed medical help, not a prayer. But I believed, so I did it. After all, if you believe, you'll believe just about anything. I guarantee that if the President of the Mormon church or the Pope of any other charismatic religious leader said they saw their dead brother turn into a wolf, their follows would believe them. But if Alvin, the Poncan Indian says it, people think he is nuts. I see both ideas, again, equally valid.
It is not something that I really supported, but having people pray for the sick was often painful for me to watch. I would, of course, pray for the sick. But I couldn't ever get over the idea that God made doctors for a reason. While prayer is OK, the best medicine is a reliable treatment from proven methods. God can do His healing anyway he wishes. I would never encourage anyone to leave the treatments of their doctors for a healing of the sick by prayer. Even the theology of that idea is weak, because the faith of both the one healing and the one receiving the healing “must” be strong to accept it, according to the dogma. To me, that left too much to risk.
Oddly, my public display of belief was put to the challenge when I was in the Army. In the chow hall, several other men knew I was a devout Christian who would pray before they would eat. The first one or two things they would say following prayer, would be about how they had just met a girl and had sex with her. Or, they would use curse words about a topic they were discussing. I felt that this was a horrible witness for Jesus and wished they wouldn't even pray before they ate. I never had the courage to speak to them about this issue. Who knows, they may have done it just to offend me. I would never do that personally. I may think to myself, “I hope the food isn't so bad you have to pray you survive the meal.” I have been known to make the “raspberry” sound if I happen to catch people doing that. But that is more out of reflex, not really trying to make fun of them.
Part of my prayer lifestyle included writing down what I was praying for and then writing the results of that prayer. I kept extensive prayer lists with dates, people, names and needs. Like I said earlier, I spent an hour every Saturday, for years, going to a “quiet place” to pray , in addition to the daily prayers I did throughout the rest of the week. Unlike when a person had a need and you or a person may sympathetically say, I'll pray for you, and then not. This was something I asked many of my friends about, at that time. Most agreed they had failed to actually follow up and pray. My answer was, why wait to pray later, take them by the shoulder or hand, bow your head and pray right there on the spot. Wherever you find the need to pray, make the time to pray. That was my modus operandi. I found that doing this not only showed the person I actually meant what I was saying, but it also usually made them feel a bit better. It gave me the right to ask about the topic of the prayer, next time I saw them, if they didn't bring it up. Most of the time, they didn't bring it up, because prayer doesn't work.
The guilt I felt, over seeing a person with whom I promised to pray for and failed, too soon went away. If for some reason I was not able to pray, I would write it down and add it to my list. Some things were easy to have an answer for: jobs for friends, someone needing money for a conference, car needs to be repaired. To be honest, if you're are praying for things that are common to have in our society, the likelihood for success is greater. People actually need things like jobs, cars, clothes and food. Other prayers were not so easy, such as: hoping that a family member would turn to the Lord; praying to have a girlfriend or boyfriend as the case may be, or, dealing with sexual temptation. I am sure many of you reading this have family or friends praying for you now. Or if you are a believer, you may be praying for someone to come to some sort of faith, more than likely, a faith similar to yours. But isn't that prayer just a selfish to make them be like you, instead of letting them be the person they want to be. Even if the person is on drugs and cannot function, you need to take care of them, not force religion down their throat. Ask any relapsed addict. They are just as likely, if not more so, to blame God for their relapse than if they were treated in a reasonable method that allows for failure. They will blame God for failing them or blame God for letting them fall back. Then the likelihood of getting them back into your faith is all but gone.
Or if you have come out of the religious experience, you may have prayed for others as I have. Like me, I am sure they thought that the power of prayer would have some real effect in your life. As the list got longer as to what I was praying for, the answered side was very empty. I got to the point that I began to use hash marks to count repeated prayers to save space. Even with clear evidence in front of my face, of the ineffectiveness of prayer, I still held to my faith. The answered prayers must have only been about 15 to 20 percent on my prayer lists. [See comments on prayer in the Mormon Mission section]. Of course, some prayers I had no way of knowing if they were answered. But the ones I could find out, that is ask someone about, were well under the 50 percent mark.
I just concluded the possible answers that typical apologetic use to justify the failure of prayer to work. There is the “God did answer the prayer” answer, then the “God said 'no' to your prayer” answer and everyone's favorite “God said wait” answer to your prayer. It is really a no loss situation for God, with those answers. If only I could have those options when I was in college for my exams, I would have been the valedictorian.
One thing I would like to point out about my comments up to this point. What I have been talking about is the reflection of reality upon the cloudiness of religion and dogma. I often include the word Dogma and adherents for this simple reason. Many people say they don't believe in religion, but believe in God. They do not have a standard or regular church they attend or even want to attend a church, but have a societal view of the meme of the religion of their community.
Because of this, there will inadvertently come areas that can be attacked or seen as weak in my topic. This is, of course, expected and I do have any problem with that. I make no claim that what I am saying ties up all the loose ends that have taken thousands of years to develop. All I am saying is that if you are willing or able to look for the errors in the book, please continue that into every other book you would read or any other source of information you would allow the privilege into your mind. So feel free to rip my words apart if you feel the need, but be sure to use the same standard for reality reflection in your religious documents, too.