As has become long-held habit when posting something of a religious nature, let me encourage those of you that have turned up today wanting something other than an introspective on whatever matters spiritual have sprung into my diseased mind this weekend to either watch this video of me playing video games or go check out what some of my fellow Blaugustinians have been up to. Notably, Mark has been busily planning gardens, Laura has been breaking games, and Shaun has been reminding me of everything that was glorious about my childhood. Anyway, Wesnoth time, it's a short one today.
So, now that there's no-one here but us chickens... Last time, we talked about idolatry, and I played the rationalist card, attempting to justify my beliefs and some of my many inadequacies in terms more palatable to my non-religious friends than simply saying "A voice in the sky said it" or "A dead jew said it". This went over pretty well with many of my religious readers, though I haven't dared to bring the topic up with some of the, ah, less-than-religious readers for fear of the result (yes, I jest, let me take a moment right now to declare that I do not in any way see the non-religious as somehow 'lesser' that those upright religious folks, it's a turn of phrase).
This week, though, I'm pretty confident that I'm going to need to change my approach a little bit, as the topic that'd been on the forefront of my mind this week is the nature of prayer, and more specifically, intercessory prayer. That's not to say that there isn't a rationalist approach to prayer, as I'm sure that there is. I'm sure that there's an argument to be made that the act of prayer, taking the time and attempting to focus on what's falling short of our standards, what could be improved, and how that change might come about (whether or not there's some divine secretary taking notes) helps us to understand and begin to change things, as well as improve our general state of mind.
It often seems to me when I'm in periods of spiritual slump like the one I've been going through in recent months that this is all prayer IS doing, that I'm talking to myself and not to any kind of divine force. It still does some measure of good, even if that measure is nothing more than a placebo, and that's one the reasons that I keep doing it; but it falls so far short of the sense of communing with God that I'm used to feeling, let alone the spiritual ecstasy that I've experienced in various times over the years, that I can't help myself wanting something a little bit more substantial.
The thing is, most of the time when I'm praying I'm not praying for me and my outlook on life. I'm well aware of many of my deficiencies, and I often pray to be released from them, or for discernment, but much more often I'm undertaking intercessory prayer, both for situations that I have some involvement in and ability to change, and also for the God that I believe has an active part in lives to act in certain ways. Of course, this is where this rationalist approach breaks down. If I'm not praying for my own benefit or improvement in me or my attitudes, why do I bother doing it at all?
Is my God ignorant of my needs? Does my God need prayer in order to work? Does he not have enough power and wisdom to make this decisions and act on them himself? I know none of these things can possibly be true, if there's any reason for me to believe in this God at all. So why do I pray? Once I think I knew a bit better, but at the moment it pretty much boils down to "A dead Jew said it". In 1 John, I'm told that God will do what I ask for, if it's of his will, and I guess I should just trust that he's got a better plan than I do. I just I have to trust that he would have done it anyway, but that somehow my having prayed is significant. That's the part I miss understanding of at the moment, but for now I'll trust me some dead jews and wait to be enlightened.
Seems like a cop out again, doesn't it? It feels like one to me tonight, too. But it doesn't always. As I get into rhythms of prayer and study, and see what appear to me to obvious Godly interactions into those situations I've ben praying for, I cannot help but be heartened that somehow, beyond my understanding, something is happening. You can choose to believe it's a random universe if you want, but I've seen too many of my hopeless prayers answered to believe that.
I guess I'll just keep plugging away.