Why I’m Not Praying

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http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/the-lay-scientist/2013/mar/26/1

I used to spend regular time in prayer. At least I tried to. I used to read my Bible more often, talk about God more often, and try to do all the things I “needed” to do to make myself seem like the stereotypical “good Christian.” I even got a Philosophy and Religion degree and applied to seminary so I could keep up the good work.

But now, I’m not praying at all. Not when I’m happy, or sad, or at the end of my rope. I don’t pray the offices, for others when I say I will, at mealtimes, barely even at church.

I’m just not praying.

Why?

Because I feel directionless but fear direction. I feel asleep but don’t want to be woken up just yet. I feel numb but don’t want to feel pain.

I don’t know what I’ll hear, whether I’ll encounter a God of love and mercy or a God who is as hard on me as I am. I don’t know if I’ll hear anything but silence. I don’t know if I can trust the God on the other end, because I’m worried this God will look like one that isn’t with or for me.

Prayer might bring me right up close and personal with the One who could tell me to go places I don’t want to go, tear down the walls I’ve worked so hard to build up, make time for the people that I don’t want to see, and maybe even get out of my own head every once in a while.

I’m scared of transformation. I’m comfortable where I am yet want so desperately to be shaken up.

I don’t even know what I believe about God anymore, and there’s this big part of me that feels like I have to have so many things figured out before I can be that close to God again.

I don’t want to be convicted, corrected, or called out. I don’t want to let someone that big and powerful know my deepest darkest secrets and fears and dreams.

I want so desperately to be in communion with my Creator, but the distance I’ve put between us seems a whole lot safer, not to mention more comfortable to me. But this distance comes at a price.

Because while I’ve been keeping God at a distance, I’ve been keeping my community at a distance. I’m afraid to let God see the real me, and I wonder if it’s because I’m afraid to let other people see the real me. Because I’m realizing more and more that the god I worship the most is how people see me, and I don’t want this god to see everything that makes me who I am, the good or the bad.

Intimacy with others can really scare me. How can I expect intimacy with God to be any less revealing or any less terrifying?

In prayer, whatever form it takes, through singing or dancing or speaking or meditating or being with people, vulnerability is a must. Being my whole self is a must. This involves tearing down walls that I’ve comfortably hidden behind for so long. This involves being honest with myself so I can be honest with others. This involves me getting out of my head long enough to realize that I am not the be all and end all of this world.

All of these seem too much for me to do.

So while I really want to pray, to read my Bible and hear its beautiful stories, to be a seminary student, to be authentically me in a community that adores me, I’m still finding what once seemed so effortless now almost impossible. I don’t completely know what I do and don’t believe about the Bible or God or Christianity. I’m still on this journey of putting one foot in front of the other and hoping that everything works out in the end.

I know I need to tear some walls down, let people in, let the world know me, let God know me and love me. But I don’t know how to convince myself that I have strength, courage, grace, and love enough to do something this big.

If anyone else is on this journey, whether you’re a faithful prayer warrior or are consumed by overwhelming doubts, please share your thoughts. Your story matters, and it should be heard. Thank you.

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6 thoughts on “Why I’m Not Praying

  1. Lindsay, you are certainly not the only person going through this. I’m not sure that we’re in the same boat, but we definitely left from the same port. I grew up a devout Catholic–prayed constantly, wanted to tell people about God, Jesus, Mary, and all the saints, and at times carried around the Bible.

    Then, almost all of a sudden, I started to question everything. I started to see that horrible things happen to people all the time all around the world, and I thought, “How can a loving and compassionate God let any of this happen?” I couldn’t believe in something that allowed pain to consume family members, strangers, anyone!

    I think the breaking point was when I watched my great-grandmother suffer first from cancer then from complications from cancer. She was someone who had a strong faith until the end. I remember looking up and saying, “How could you let this happen to someone who loved you so fervently?” And with that, my trust was gone. I pushed him away for a while after that. I wanted nothing to do with Him.

    That’s about the time I started seeing a lot of inconsistencies in what churches told me about God, too. That made it very difficult to believe. But as I pushed God away, I felt like I was pushing away something else, too. I couldn’t tell what it was, and I still couldn’t tell you. All I know is I closed God off from my heart, from my mind, from my life. I stopped praying. I still don’t read the Bible anymore. I don’t even go to church. I tried to keep myself away from Him because I believed the closer someone got to Him, the worse off they would be in the end–pain wise. I thought I was concealing myself from Him.

    It didn’t help when later, a friend (only 17/18 at the time) found out he might have cancer. What?? Another individual so full of faith and love for God, and he was suffering like this! How does that work? Even though I didn’t fully believe in Him at the time, I blamed God. I blamed Him for everything. I remember thinking, “You just can’t give your people anything good, can you? You just take it away!”

    Then I started to think differently. I had already gone through phases of trying to find “the right God.” A God that matched with what I saw. I was trying to find comfort. Obviously it wasn’t a merciful and loving being that was doing all of these cruel things to those who revered Him the most! Or maybe I’d just been praying to the wrong god the whole time!

    I looked into Judaism, where God is vengeful, angry, but still loving if you do everything just right. Still felt empty. I looked into Protestantism, namely the Church of the Brethren. Better, but not quite there. The Baptist Church was just too intolerant for me to even consider (God loves everyone after all, right? Oh yeah, except for homosexuals and anyone who believes differently from them. That’s right, I forgot about that. [Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely not just the Baptist Church that thinks that way, it’s just the church I attended.]). Finally I ended up looking into Buddhism.

    I had a different view of God from the beginning. Even though Buddhism doesn’t really express a “god,” it kind of touches on something that I think God would be. Or it could just be that Buddhist beliefs are somewhat compatible with what I believe God to be. Essentially, I envision a blue mist. This blue mist (God) is more of a universal force. No gender, no human form, just a being–an energy force. It touches everything, flows through everything. I believe Karma says, what you put into the universe is what the universe gives back to you. If you send out positive thoughts and vibes, positivity returns to you. I think we are all connected to this universal force, it’s in each of us, and if we put out positive energy, that’s what spreads through the universe, and eventually comes back to us.

    In this sense, if God is more of an energy, a being, than some sort of Lord or King, then it’s not someone sitting around saying, “You will live a good, happy life. But you…you will suffer incessantly.” In this sense, I feel much more comfortable with God. With this idea in mind, I have started to pray again. I’m not entirely sure what I call on, but I feel comforted when I do.

    But yes, I have been in a place of serious doubt, too. I think that’s what makes faith stronger. I am less likely to believe someone who tells me about faith if they’ve never questioned it. I also believe that the reason people do question it is because God, or a force, or something, wants to make the relationship stronger.

    1. Jess, thank you so much for sharing some of your story! It is beautiful, and I appreciate your vulnerability in sharing it. I, too, have looked a lot into Buddhism and have found some beautiful messages and practices in it, some that make me feel closer to God than most things I practiced in church! Let’s please chat sometime 🙂 when will you be back at BC?

      1. I’ve definitely felt that way about it! And yes! I’m at BC now–all those fun summer classes and such.

  2. Prayer has been difficult for me for most of my life. I’m not sure why, though I share your reservations about being vulnerable with God. I too find it difficult right now to pray to God because I’m not sure how He will react. I sometimes find comfort in the fact that the disciples probably spent the vast majority of their time with Jesus wondering just who this strange rabbi was and what He was doing. Maybe the disciples had just as many questions as you and me and everyone else.

    1. Love it! I too believe that the disciples were confused half the time, but something just kept them going. I resonate a lot with that idea. Thank you so much for sharing, Matt in the Hat!

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