Saturday, August 23, 2008

What are we to pray for and why?

Hi I’m Boaz and I’ve taken over control of the ship! No one move! Agree with me or we all die! Only joking, but I'd like to thank our pal Doorman-Priest who is wandering around the world somewhere for asking me to do a guest blog. I’m honored.

Now I’ll just settle myself down over here on this couch… It all began for me many years ago, in childhood naturally…

Oh, by the way this post is about prayer.

I'm actually anonymous, hence the name Boaz, and I live in Sydney. I’ve always been an Anglican (except for the time in late adolescence when I was a charismatic for a couple of years- probably some version of the Assemblies of God). I left my Sydney Anglican church about 7 years ago for one of the more traditional Anglican churches. They call them “high” churches here in Sydney.

I started a blog, Not the Southern Cross, last year, partly influenced by Alcibiades of Caliban’s Dream, a fellow traveler here in Sydney. I write about my thoughts using the Sydney Anglican magazine Southern Cross as a my straw man. Its not an easy gig as I never did enjoy reading the Southern Cross. Even though it now provides me with my raison d’être, the last two issues I have barely read!

Anyway back on the couch and as I said my post is about prayer. I’ve never been a great prayer. Not since childhood anyway. I grew up in what you might consider to be emotionally straightened circumstances. I was a sensitive, excessively obedient child. My parents loved me but they were plagued with problems. My father spent a number of years in a home for wayward boys and God only knows what went on there. He was a tattoo covered alcoholic, barely out of his teenage years when I was born. Your typical tragic figure, he was much admired and hysterically funny when sober, but easily slighted and given to fighting at the pub when drunk. His forte was making late night mayhem at home. We lived in a public housing area and the whole neighborhood could hear him ranting and raving each night. Sometimes I felt it was, "Agree with me or we all die." By adolescence it became embarrassing to say the least.

I’d lie awake at night, most nights, listening and praying that there wouldn’t be violence tonight and if it sounded really bad that my mother wouldn’t be dead before the sun came up. This went on year after year. There was no let up, no happy ending and eventually my mother, presumably no longer fearing death, fled! I was trying to do my final year at high school at the time, wanting to be doctor.

Of course there had been some good times along the way. The sun always seemed to shine brightly the next morning. As I caught the bus to school I'd think, “What on earth were you so worried about last night?” I never went hungry and always had clean clothes and a warm bed. I realised at the time that other children were starving in Africa.

Now about prayer. God always seemed to answer my prayers. It was very convincing as a child. Often I would pray that my father would fall asleep. I gave up praying for the impossible. I stopped asking that he would reform, merely that he would, tonight, fall asleep. The skeptic might point out that this can happen with someone who is very drunk but as a child it was very convincing.

I’d become a believer when a lady approached me and some other kids who were playing at the park. She at us down and talked about Jesus using a little book of coloured pages. I was about 6 years old at the time. I ran home so excited I was jumping out of my skin. My father was working on the car and my mother came out to help me tell him the story. They both looked at each other and rolled their eyes, but I was converted and have remained so ever since.

During adolescence I escaped to the local Anglican Church and into a serious fundamentalism. The habits one learns during times of trauma are very difficult if not impossible to unlearn.

When you are a fundamentalist and you asked yourself, “Why is it that God answers my prayers?” the answer is, “Because you are one of his chosen ones”. I’m sorry to say that this answer sufficed for me until I had my own children. You want to be grateful and thankful and so you accept that God has a special purpose for your life.

It’s not the only thing, but having children is one of the things that can bring you to your senses. I don’t know if my children are “Christians” or if they ever will be but lets allow for the moment that they’re not, even so why wouldn’t God answer their prayers? Why wouldn't God love them?

There must have been other children who, like me, prayed that this or that wouldn’t happen as they were growing up and yet it still happened. Do I really believe God loved those kids any less than he loved me?

More recently I've been reflecting more on the traumas and suffering in the world and I have to wonder, "Should we really pray for God to make the weather nice for church Sunday School picnic when he doesn’t stop it flooding in other parts of the world and mothers and babies are drowned?"

Currently I believe that God answers our prayers through the actions (good works) of our fellow creation. Hence when God doesn't seem to answer our prayers, and tragedy is not averted, someone helps that suffering person, in some way, later. That's the best I can come up with.

So there you have it folks a little bit about me (we all like to hear other people’s life stories - I hope I’ve been brief) and the following questions if you care to comment. What are we to pray for and why? and Who does God listen to: anyone, everyone? and Anything else. Over to you.