What's wrong with our prayers? Here's what's wrong... what we often call prayer isn't prayer at all.
Let me explain it this way...
I do not pray to be healthy; I pray for wisdom to make healthy choices.
I do not pray for healing; I pray for strength to endure the suffering that comes to me.
I do not pray for success... for work... for finances... for abundance; I give thanks instead, that I can dream and make plans and take risks and pursue my dreams. Then, I rejoice for all I do have, however great or small, none of which I may deserve anyway, but all of which is a gift from the Unseen hand.
I do not pray for long life either; I pray instead that I may live into the life I have. And, all I have is this moment... even as I write, I cry now... but not with sadness but joy for I am alive. I am living. How could I not be glad? How could I not rejoice? For now, that is... this moment... for this is eternity in an hour, is it not?
I think we've got this thing called prayer all wrong.
Why would I pray to be healthy when I innately know whether I'm taking care of myself or not... whether I am resting properly, or eating healthy, or exercising regularly?
I know what I'm doing. Or, better, what I may not be doing. Why would I degrade prayer by praying about such things I know the answer to already?
Why would I pray, for example, to be healed of sickness or cancer or some other disastrous and unexpected illness that attacks me out of the blue? What makes me special that I should not be subject to becoming ill or growing old or getting sick?
Does it irritate you, as it does me, when people send out the call for "prayer warriors" when someone has fallen ill? They sound an alarm, a kind of call to arms as it were, asking for as many people to pray as possible -- as if, by getting more prayers they have a greater chance at being heard or getting healed. As if, by having many people praying, their army is consequently bigger than whatever may be resisting the answer they seek?
What nonsense! What a prostitution of prayer, too! To think, God only gets turned on to my needs, and so responds, when I get enough people praying for help. It's absurdity and it has nothing to do with spirituality or real prayer.
I must, if I wish to move beyond merely calling myself a "believer," I must stop this childish way of thinking and believing that the more prayers I can get to "go up to God" the better my chances of averting disaster, either for myself or those for whom I am praying.
That's the stuff the charlatan preachers on television promote and to everyone's peril.
But it ain't so! And, it's time you know.
Every day, millions of people suffer and die all over this planet, some from starvation, others from violence and bloodshed, still others from disease, aging, and a host of other natural causes.
How many of them, do you suppose, call out in prayer to be spared? And yet, they are not. So, why would I, or you, believe that, when we call out to God... when we plead, beg, offer incense, or amass an army of prayer warriors, that we are going to persuade the gods to look more favorably on our condition, or that of the ones we love? What makes any of us think our incessant begging is going to overcome the odds -- whatever their cause?
Is it an attack from Satan we are experiencing? That's what the Kenneth Copeland's on television and the Benny Hinn's of this world will tell you. Satan is often the scapegoat for those who don't want to attribute suffering and illness to God. "No," they say, "God wants you healed... it's the Devil who's trying to kill you!"
Well, if you call aging and sickness the attack of the Devil, so be it. But the day will come when we'll all finally grow up and realize the Devil can be blamed for many things, but the fact remains, we are going to get sick, age, and eventually die, with or without any help from Satan.
Think. Think. Think about this.
Our theology so often is so limited. Our view of God is too frequently distorted, warped, and just plain spiritually immature.
You and I are born and we will die. Period. No one can be "healed" every time from every illness. Tell that to Kenneth and Gloria Copeland. Look at how they've aged over the years. In spite of their rants, they grow old, too... and get sick just like the rest of us...and, one day, they, too, will die.
It's part of what it means to be human.
We must stop blaming Satan or our circumstances for the common cold. To do so makes the spiritual life the laughingstock of the world.
We must grow up in our faith instead. Pray... yes, of course, pray... but let prayer be without the begging, pleading, the believing that we are more special than others and so should not have to suffer like the rest of humanity. We must stop the incessant bastardizing of God. And, we must let go of such childish ways of thinking about God as if he were some kind of Cosmic Santa Claus who gives goodies to the good folks like you and me...who gives health and healing but only to those of us who "have enough faith"... or, who rescues from the jaws of death those "whose time to go is not yet."
To believe and act in these childish ways does not "prove ones faith." It undermines it instead. And, furthermore, it's so unlike the Christ who walked into his own suffering, not away from it... who, yes, in a moment of weakness, prayed, just as we sometimes pray in weakness and fear, "Take this cup from me..." But, once he voiced that weakness, once he embraced his fear, he was able to step beyond both, just as the Buddha counseled all of us long before Jesus ever showed up: "Resist not what is...for, to do so, is to suffer all the more!"
In so doing, Jesus was able to pray the genuine and perfect spiritual prayer, "Not my will, but thine be done."
When we can pray that prayer, spiritual maturity will have arrived.
Until we can pray that prayer, however... well... the Copelands, and the Hinns, and those of immature faith like them, will have to do, I suppose.
If you find the things I write about the spiritual life to be meaningful to you, would you share them with your family and friends? Visit my website www.SteveMcSwain.com too for more like what you've just read. Walk with God. But then, of course, you do. How could you not? You were born to do so.