15 July 2014

Praying for Myself

I seldom discuss matters of faith in this blog, or even at all, because it's a deeply personal and complicated subject for me. Lately, though, something has been on my mind and I haven't found a satisfactory perspective so I thought I'd take the chance and put it out there. It's my sincere hope that maybe some thoughtful discourse will follow.

If someone specifically brings to my attention a prayer request, I usually oblige. On those occasions, I'll let the person know that I did, but that's more just to acknowledge that their request hasn't fall on deaf ears. What they need at those times is some kind of reassurance that someone is aware of their situation and cares. I can handle that. I will also often, on my own, ask God to help others find their way through a difficult time or to bring healing to them - physical, emotional, spiritual, whatever. I rarely tell anyone I've done this. I'm not seeking credit for anything that may come from those prayers, after all.

What I can't handle, though, is asking for anything for myself.

This isn't a matter of pride for me, or vanity. It's more just a simple matter of manners with me. I just don't want to be That Guy. You know, the one who puts you on the spot every time you see him with some request or another.

Plus, I don't like being micromanaged, so I figure He doesn't, either. If the point of my faith is to trust that God knows and cares about me, that He wants good things for me, and that there's a place for me in His plans, then isn't asking Him for something tantamount to badgering Him about His plans?

The most famous Scripture about praying is:
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. - Matthew 7:7-8
Is this about teaching me that I can have what I ask for but only if I ask for it? That seems kind of petty to me. I've always had a chip on my shoulder toward anyone who can see someone else needs help but won't give it or even offer it until that person asks. I've always perceived that as pettiness winning over compassion. It goes back to my childhood, knowing some people who seemed to relish being asked for help. These people practically rooted against the person in need, just to see them pushed so far that they would finally ask for help. It was about their ego, not compassion. Maybe that's an unfair grudge to extend to God, but there it is.

Anyway, I run into another problem here. By restricting myself to only those areas where I am powerless to do anything more on my own, I am by default firmly in the realm of Big Picture stuff. I don't ask for anything material in nature. I'm usually rankled by it, but I accept that He can be there with us while still allowing us to suffer. I'd like to have more good days than bad, physically. I'd like to have better mental health. I seek companionship. I don't want to die alone and be eaten by the cats, though I'm pretty sure that's what's in store for me.

There are some things within my power to affect these things, but most of those aren't so much things I can do to make things better so much as things I can do that will make matters worse, and obviously trying to avoid doing those things. For instance, I know there are foods I can eat that will send me straight to the ER. I have the agency to choose not to eat those foods, so I can avoid the ER. But avoiding the ER is not the same as improving things.

This also brings me to the matter of my struggle with the very concept of "deserving" things. I run from that concept as quickly as I run toward a pan of brownies. I can't wrap my head around that. I can't even say, "I deserve" aloud. Can't do it. Not even as a setup for a hyperbolic joke. Maybe I don't deserve anything. People flip out whenever I suggest that possibility, and I think it's because they're terrified that if I don't deserve anything then maybe they don't, either. I can see why that would be troubling to someone who believes they do deserve things, though I've honestly never considered that my standing should have any implications for yours.

Almost ironically, the reason I don't go near the "deserving" claim is my faith. To invoke a secularism here, I refer to a song:
"You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table/There'll be time enough for counting when the dealin's done." - "The Gambler" written by Don Schlitz
It's not my place to tally up where I stand or what I've "earned". I trust simply that when the time comes to be judged that whatever I've done right will be recognized along with whatever I've done wrong. I'm sure some others out there there view life more as a matter of cashing out along the way, but I don't. I'm still sittin' at the table, so the counting has to wait.

I have, though, finally broken down and asked Him lately for something. I don't want to discuss it, except to say that all I ask is a fair opportunity at something; something that feels as though it could be something He's put before me in the first place, but is not within my power to realize. Again, it's a matter where my power lies more in the area of being able to screw it up than in making it happen. I feel selfish and vulgar each time I've brought it up.

So, for those of you who do pray: Do you ask for things for yourself? Do you think in terms of what you "deserve"? How do you feel about all this? What am I missing here?

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