Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Why Your Prayers Don't Work

I’m a praying person. A very loud and passionate praying person. Me and the Divine can really get into it. Actually, it’s usually me yelling, upset and angry for the majority of it, followed by sad and desperate, followed by ready to listen. I don’t believe in formalities with a being who supposedly sent me here to figure stuff out and has invited me to “come unto Him” when life has got me down. No, if He (or She) wants me to give them due attention, they don’t get to pick and choose how that attention comes. If I have to wait my own kids through a tantrum, so does the Divine. 

Anyway, here’s my problem. Facebook has become this maelstrom of polarized sides clashing more than usual lately. Because the world is full of people doing nasty things to each other—just as it always has, only it’s getting more and more media attention. And it’s making people afraid and ignorant and making them consider really stupid things, making them SAY really stupid things. And of course political season is coming into swing, which means adding a big dash of crazy to what is already a primordial ooze of ridiculousness. And I have all these words I want to say but it feels like talking into the white noise. Like really, how can you talk to people who are panicked?

Anyway, whenever some kind of ugly thing happens and people are hurt or killed, people are posting about praying. They pray for this or that person. They pray for a country. They pray for a people. They pray for leaders. They pray for the world. Whatever. It’s become the universally accepted way to mourn terrible things. Just say you’re praying and everyone puts on their sad look and nods in agreement. Then we all go back to our Christmas shopping. Then we go watch a Jesus movie. Then we go to church and talk more about praying. Hell, I don’t even know if you ARE praying. But it doesn’t much matter to me. Either way it’s not working.

It’s not working because we just won’t DO anything different. We act as if praying is the fix. That somehow the Divine is going to wave a magic wand and disburse goodness and fix everything. Or maybe you’re one of those people that believes God is in control of everything and is going to rain more terror and suffering down on us for our own good because only HE can comprehend the purpose and place of your suffering. I really don’t know how to help you if you are one of those people… God help you. But I digress.

Your prayers aren’t working. They’re in that white noise I mentioned. And the more this crap happens, the more commonplace it becomes. And the more commonplace it becomes, the more you accept it. And then your prayers become a cultural practice rather than an actual form of communication.

I get it, too. I get why your prayers are being ignored. You ever had your kid come whine at you for like the tenth time because Sammy hit them or stole their toy or called them a name? And you’re like, in the middle of important adulting stuff, and you pat them on the head or give them a hug or say, “You’re okay” except you’re barely present because what you really want is for them to shut the crap up and get along. I mean, they KNOW what to do. How many times have you told them? They KNOW that if they would just stop trying to control every aspect of the imaginary game they’re playing and let Sammy have a say in how things go down, Sammy wouldn’t have lashed out. They KNOW they haven’t cared about that toy until Sammy picked it up… On and on. You’ve told them. You’ve explained it. And instead of like, GETTING why it is that Sammy is being ugly, they come to you and start whining. So you pat them on the back and tell them to go figure it out.

That’s the Divine. He or she has TOLD you what to do differently. You KNOW how this works. There are some seven billion people on the planet and if even a comparative handful of those people did like, one extra good deed each day, it would DRAMATICALLY change things. You KNOW if you would just be an example, people would actually CHOOSE to do what you do.

But no. You’re going to sit at home and pray for all those people who make bad choices and cause fear the world over. Pray for them. And pray. And DO nothing.

So stop praying. God is sick of you crying over things you can do your part to fix. Start DOING. Start BEING the answer to someone’s prayer. Don’t say a prayer unless you intend to act, unless you intend to follow through on an answer. If you are too lazy to change, then say it out loud. Say it to everyone you know. And then just see if you don’t figure out how to fix that part of yourself. Just say it: “I’m too lazy to change small things in my life. I suck. I need to be better.” I prescribe three times a day, out loud, to someone else.

Next time you see something on the news, on facebook, etc, then stop, let that horror and fear and disgust and sorrow work in you longer than a few seconds. Let it penetrate further than simply changing your Facebook profile picture to the flag of France. Let it sink in. If you’re wondering why people are doing the things they’re doing to others, don’t just wonder. Know that it’s because you failed to change the world, one little act of kindness at a time. It’s on YOU, not God, not a government, not a religion or someone’s mental illness. There isn’t a magic pill people. It’s everyone, individually, spreading more kindness, caring more. 

I’ll be accountable here. I decided to do two things differently after the shooting in San Bernardino:
  1. Call myself out, out loud, to another person, when I feel disgruntled about something stupid, that I take for granted. The other day, for example, we were staying in a hotel and the shower had a really low head. And the thing wouldn’t angle very far so you had to stand really close to the wall. My first thought was one of complaint. "Who the heck installed this thing? Way to think ahead people." And then I stopped and thought, “Oh my GOSH. I have clean water spraying on me. And it’s hot. And I can stand here as long as I want. And I’m annoyed at the HEIGHT it’s pouring out? WTH is wrong with me?” And then I told my husband about my stupid first-world complaint. 
  2. I will no longer passively “put up with” Brad’s obsessive need to recycle. I will participate, fully. I will not get upset when I find his granola bar wrappers lying around and secretly throw them away. I will put them in the bag he keeps for those things that we send off. I will look around me as often as I can remember, particularly at conventions, to grab the things that can be recycled.

Those are the things I decided to do better. I will combat the ugliness of the past few weeks with these small things that I know I can change and have made excuses for in the past.

You're not helpless. Prayer isn't "all you can do" no matter what the thing is you're praying for. Go do something. 


  1. I love you. This is such a great reminder. Thank you.

  2. I love you. This is such a great reminder. Thank you.

  3. Pay it Forward. I'd say "Amen", but that's probably a bit
    too preachy.