When I was recently diagnosed with skin cancer I called my mother to tell her the news. She assured me that everything was going to work out and that ‘everyone is having cancer removed these days.’ She also told me that she’d get me on the prayer list at her church. I was honored, of course, but part of me just smiled. I admire her faith in prayer, but have a conflict with the idea.
Like most Christians, I grew up learning to say prayers. Mostly at meals (“God is great…”), before bed (“Now I lay me…”) and of course the Lord’s Prayer. And now my own children know these prayers. But they also know one other that I learned in AA, called the Serenity Prayer. Unlike other prayers, the Serenity Prayer asks God for very little. In fact, it’s just a prayer for serenity, courage, and wisdom. And for me, that’s enough. When I start asking God to do things I want, it feels like I’m telling Him that I know what’s better for me than He does.
I grew up with the stories of God in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New. These stories were my reference points to divine omnipotence. At 27, however, I heard the voice of God in my head. And so since that point I’ve looked at God in a completely different way. Now, God is all-powerful. All-knowing. All-everything. In fact, in my view, if you accumulate the collective knowledge of everything human beings have ever learned about anything, all that wisdom still wouldn’t amount to a pimple on God’s ass. My faith is based in the belief that everything is perfect – even when it’s not. Even when things seem their most dire, there’s a reason. Even when I have no idea what that reason is, I try to remain cognizant of the fact that I’m not in control and that God is. And if I’m really a faithful servant, then I have to believe that He has a plan and that my only role is to keep moving forward in a positive direction trusting that everything will work out the way it’s supposed to. Granted, this isn’t easy. It requires a certain letting go that I could never have understood had it not been for that fateful the day when I was brought to my knees in an act of complete surrender so that I could actually hear the voice. Since then, I’ve always figured that what God wants most from me isn’t a bunch of pleading and complaining in my prayers – but rather, my humility. It’s not up to me to question God’s will. Just to accept it. God’s no dummy, after all.
I get on my knees at night and when I get up in the morning. I pray at most meals. I walk around talking to God throughout my day. I even write occasional blog posts on the idea of God. No, I’m not out there spreading gospel – mostly I just ask Him ‘why?’ about stuff. Hoping to hear the voice again. Only, it hasn’t happened since that day long ago. He talks in other ways, however. Usually over great spans of time that I have to be patient enough to hear. Still, I know He’s always listening and I have faith that He has things in control even though my vision is limited. My actions every day are an attempt at sincere humility.
Most of my friends are control freaks. And that’s ok. It’s way easier to think that we’re in control in life than to believe we must give up control to some omnipotent force in order to get the things we need (not even the stuff we want!). We want what we want when we want it, by God, and nothing’s going to get in our way. I get that. And I wouldn’t want anyone to change how they are because of what works for me. But what works for me isn’t what works most people. So if you pray, and you pray to get things you want – I hope you get them. You do what you need to do to get through life. It’s been my experience that God doesn’t do requests. I’m simply not smart enough to tell Him how things should be. God wants me to be humble and to trust Him. Regardless of what I want.
I was born perfect, and was flawed by a world that told me I was in control. Humility has become my touchstone to the truth.
Jim Mitchem – Don’t mistake this practice of intimate humility as anything like meek. On the contrary. As a child of God I bow before no man.