Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Do I Need a List to Get It Right?

Have you ever noticed how certain themes pop up in your life from time to time? A recent one for me is the theme of petitioning God. There is a part of me that calls petition “the laundry list” or “I need fill-in-the blank.” Each time I have recently encountered the idea of petition, I have felt resistance and in those circumstances I am called to consider why.

Pondering this notion, questions arise in my mind: Do I believe in a God who answers lists? Do I consider myself above petition? Or is it resistance to the notion of somehow needing a list to get it right? The first time this came up was while meeting with my spiritual director. I felt the resistance again on Sunday in a potentially self-righteous, but curious kind of way. The priest was encouraging us to spend time with God without the need to bring “the list,” i.e. to be grateful, to honor God, to be in God’s presence. I felt very smug at that moment because currently "being" is more my style. I feel like every breath is prayer. In and out. Yah…weh…I have thrown away my list.

So where is the balance? Do I believe in a God who answers prayer? How can I not? But/And how can I believe in a white-bearded man who sits at a desk in heaven and follows each of us like Twitter? God’s magnitude is beyond description. I continue to experience Her presence most when I am in nature and times of just being. In those moments, there is no need to ask. Still I wonder about the notion of petition. I hold others in my thoughts and prayers – safety for travel – healing of sick – hearts to be protected. It no longer feels like a list (or petition), but breath. One movement.

My critical voice steps in and speaks. Am I getting it right? Have I evolved? Look at me! So, where is the balance? Do I need to be doing something different? Is it ok to simply be? Can I merely be in the presence of this God I cannot name and yet know throughout every cell of my bones? The paradox is huge. The belief is strong and the unknowing and questions run side by side. I continue to seek even though I have already found. I continue to grow even though I am an adult. I continue forward – most days. Do I need a list to get it right? Do you?

steeple in the clouds - bermuda 7.09

12 comments:

Tess said...

No, no list. I've never been much for this form of prayer. Even though one says as a matter of course "I'll pray for you" when people are in trouble, for me this is holding them in my thoughts in the way you describe.

I don't believe that mental holding of a person will make one jot of difference to God. If it did, that would mean a Twitter God (nice analogy!) who needed a quick elbow in the ribs to remember to take action for the person. That simply can't be right.

Where I think prayer as petition can perhaps be helpful is to focus our own minds and spirits. I often find myself praying for strength (or whatever). Is that selfish? No I don't think so, it seems to me a kind of clarifying of my own thoughts and a reminder that God is constantly giving me strength, I just have to tap into it.

It's all something around whether one believes in a reactive God. I don't.

differenceayearmakes said...

Petitioning God?

or is it Participating with God?

I strongly believe in the power of prayer - but I'm not so sure it is because I think Someone won't think about, do something, till I mention it.

lucy said...

tess--i like your description of petition as focusing our minds and spirits and clarifying our thoughts. yes, i like that a lot!!


rebecca--"participating" is a very nice distinction. it makes so much sense if we're all in this together, huh?

i, too, strongly believe in the power of prayer! i don't necessarily understand it, but i do believe. isn't that the definition of faith?

Barbara said...

In my tradition, we call it the Communion of Saints. In essence, we are all involved with one another in God. If we unite our hearts with God's loving will for each of us, we are, in effect, expressing God's will in our prayer. Now, we may not know what God's will is, except that it be ultimately loving. We don't change God's mind, as it were, we lend our voice to Love's expression.

In my own way, I am saying something rather similar to what others said above.

SUNRISE SISTER said...

Lucy - So many good questions. I'm a believer in that questioning of ourselves on a regular basis. Questioning God, I try not to do that but the questions do pop in my mind from time to time - particularly, of course, when a tragedy occurs that seems so beyond my understanding. Anyway, I love this quote from your post - "I continue to seek even though I have already found. I continue to grow even though I am an adult."

I don't think we can be truly authentic in our relationship with God if we don't continue to seek what that relationship means to our being, the gift of our lives.

Thanks for the thought provoking questions. I have a post coming up tomorrow that is so full of questions I almost wore out the "question key.":)

xoxox

hmmbrd said...

Petitioning God... i think the act of asking, speaking or thinking the hearts desire is the THING. God already knows, i can assume, but there is something for me in the process of petitioning. It makes me deal with what i want, and then all the emotions that are in that. It's a relational communing with my God over my desires. I honestly think the process is the point, rather than the outcome.
Of course... I then paint attributes to God depending on the 'answer' i get; silence looks like an uncaring God, No looks like mean God, yes looks like loving God. very funny when i think about it!
this is a good question you raise...I'll have to give it more thought.

Christine Claire Reed said...

This prayer thing can be such a tricky labyrinth -- easy to get lost in.

I focus on the concept of Free Will, which I believe is essential to our humanity but eliminates the possibility of a God who intervenes in any way.

A God like that would be small to me, anyway. Too much like a micro-manager and those are never good! :)

Prayer, for me, is more about alignment.

Aligning myself with my own power -- which comes from God/Universe/Whatever.

BUT this is not about Law of Attraction stuff either, which I think is simplistic and can easily lead to people feeling even more badly about themselves.

This is about Alignment with Understanding so that we might Discern.

Okay...sorry...figuring out as I write. :)

(And thank you for your comment today. Your opinion of posts like that means a GREAT deal to me.)

lucy said...

barbara--i love "communion of the saints". it's interesting how different terminology for basically the same thing pushes much fewer buttons for me.

always glad to hear your voice!

SS--so curious about the hesitancy to question God...i imagine it looks a certain way for you, but i found myself wondering if you thought the gist of this post was to question God. in my mind it is more a questioning of format...

hmmmm...always more questions. xoxoox


hmmbrd--"act" and "process" - i like that! i am also smiling at your assignation of attributes based on the results :-)

christine--"alignment" is another great word. once again i find myself aligned with what you have offered!

i'm so glad the feedback on your post is meaningful. again, i love the way you have playfully entered into potentially resistant territory!!

SUNRISE SISTER said...

Lucy, No, no, my fingers get ahead of my thoughts some time. I don't mind questioning God at all - I think my intent was to say that I do NOT question God's existence (neither do I think that you do) but the logic of all that happens in life could cause one to question the existence of a Creator. I am such a believer in the fact that God gave us free will and we often run amok with that freedom.

I love your questioning format in this post - sharing questions and pondering them and the answers that we collectively or individually come up with is an integral aspect of our growth in life and in God's kingdom.

xoxox

kigen said...

Hi Lucy! I think of petitions as taking matters into one's own hands, instead of just trusting in the Divine, who usually has an answer far more interesting than anything we could think of to ask for. But a plaintive "I NEED SOME HELP HERE," seems fair enough! ((-:

lucy said...

SS--thanks for the clarification. i wondered if that might have been a case of "fast fingers." :-) xoxoxo

kigen--love your response. i, too, believe the Divine almost always gives "an answer far more interesting than anything we could think of"!!

Barbara said...

One additional thought on this theme. I find it a very "powerful" prayer when, after having done all I could think of doing for myself of others, I just turn it all over to God. I place the issue, as it were, on God's shoulders and then, to the best I am able, let go. That's the hard part. Once done, no need to say more. It is out of my hands.