Why I Am Afraid To Pray

I’m going to be as blunt as possible, I’m afraid to pray. When I was a young kid, every night I would pray for my family’s safety and happiness and couldn’t sleep until I did. As I got older, I got lost in all sorts of distractions, so naturally prayed less.
When I became introduced to Christianity, I began praying more; they were the same kinds of prayers plus some. Funny as it sounds (or sad), I normally prayed that God bless the people I loved and make the people that crossed me repent. I masked it in words of love like “May you show this person your light and soften their heart,” when I was really thinking “what a jerk this one is!” This is an example of praying to a God of my imagination.
When I disengaged from organized religion, I began seeing how incredibly selfish my prayers were. Asking God to bless my family and friends with protection and happiness was not a form of surrendering. I was giving God a list to follow, and setting myself up to hate God if God doesn’t answer. I couldn’t face suffering, but rather pretended that it could be prevented by the muttering of a few words. Sometimes I view suffering as negative experiences, rather than experiences that drives a person to be better or learn the things they ought to learn in this life.
I’ve literally refused to surrender until today and see things for what they are. I’m at the point in my life where I want to pray again, but something is stopping me…the thought that perhaps suffering will inevitably happen (especially when it could be part of God’s will).
What I truly want to pray for is selfish. I’m afraid to pray unselfish prayers. “Your will be done,” encompasses so much of the unknown. I am unsure of what to pray for other than that anymore, nor can I get myself to pray just that.
What do you pray for? What is the right way to pray?

I also posted this on www.contemplationcenter.org (check it out: http://contemplationcenter.org/trang/why-i-am-afraid-to-pray/)

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18 thoughts on “Why I Am Afraid To Pray

  1. As always I enjoy reading about your inner reflections Trang.

    “Sometimes I view suffering as negative experiences, rather than experiences that drives a person to be better or learn the things they ought to learn in this life.”

    This is very true, but the question is could they have learned such a life lesson without the suffering. Do I need to be the victim of prejudice to know that being prejudicial to others is wrong. I always think there is more than one way to learn life’s lessons, but I agree that directly experiencing something is the most powerful teacher.

    As you probably know I don’t pray, but I used to. Of course when I was young the lure of prayer was strong, and I think it’s natural to be selfish, but really all i wanted was for my dad to not be an alcoholic anymore. As we have talked before, organized Christianity try to sell you the idea that if you pray hard enough your prayers will be answered. I am sure you can imagine with what effort a 12 year old boy will pray so that his father will stop drinking. Regardless of how hard I prayed, of course it didn’t happen. Later, when I reached the “I am done with organized religions” phase of my life, I went to therapy based on some serious stress I was feeling from my dad’s drinking and eventual suicide attempt. As someone who loves his father I would feel like somehow the situation was in my control, that I could do something to help my dad, even though I had tried hard to get him to stop. My therapist asked me one time if I believed in God. At that time I said “Yes, but I don’t think He can do anything to help”. My therapist looked at me and said “But you already know that the situation is out of your control, so at least there is a chance that God could do something. Put your dad in God’s hands.” And that’s when he talked about “surrendering to a higher power”. It didn’t change my view on God or religion, but it did help me realize that some things are just out of our hands and there is nothing we can do about it. I think true wisdom comes in recognizing situations that we can influence and those we can’t.

    After that moment I started praying again, although not really praying. I would have conversations with God. I don’t know if I even really asked for anything, but I thought maybe if I just talked to God about confusion that I felt about whatever was bothering me in my life God would help me find some answers. In general it is therapeutic to just let feelings out. But since you believe in God, why not just try to have something similar to a conversation. Maybe prayer is something you have to practice before you can do it right. 🙂

    Anyway, these are just some thoughts and some experiences, I am not sure if I have any good answers for you. I don’t think, however it’s wrong to want to protect people you love from suffering. If they do suffer than you want them to have the strength to learn the right lessons, but there is also plenty of needless suffering as well. A woman doesn’t need to get hit by her husband to know that she doesn’t deserve to be hit. I also don’t think you should feel bad praying for yourself. You don’t seem like a very selfish person in the material sense and sometimes we do simply need some strength or something for ourselves in the short term so that we can be the generous and giving person in the long term that we want to be. If you are feeling strong, that you generally aren’t much good to others, so praying for yourself isn’t wrong. The person that I at least see on this blog seems to be full of love with a desire to be accepting of others, interact with them and learn. The thought of you praying only invokes warm and happy feelings. So while I don’t have a trust in a higher being, I trust you, now you need to do the same and just start talking to God and don’t be afraid!

    Now if you’re afraid nobody is listening that’s a completely different problem. 🙂

    • As always you give a thoughtful response that I can glean so much wisdom from you. Your story saddens my heart deeply, I am so glad you turned out to be a shining light in the world. For someone to go through so much trauma as yourself and turn around helping people by inspiring them the way you do is a true testament to your character. I am honored to have made such a friend.

      • All that wisdom is just because I’m old. 😉

        Thank you for compassionate response Trang. While it was hard I don’t feel it was traumatic. My father had real trauma growing up. He was often disciplined by his father through beatings, but had an even more traumatic thing happen as a teen that I don’t know how I would handle if I were that age. I don’t mind telling you privately, but would rather not post it here. He grew up in a culture that did not support the value of psychological treatment, especially for me who are supposed to “man up” and just get over bad things that happen. He is an emotional man and coped the best way he knew how. Once I realized the source of his pain (which I never knew growing up) and that he is just another human being struggling like the rest of us it was easy for me to let go of my anger. It’s hard to learn lessons well when pain overwhelms you and then you simply try to numb the pain with alcohol. While I still hold hope that he can change, he is a lot of positive qualities and I refuse to not love him just because he can’t be who I want him to be. He is my dad and gave me much in life and I am thankful for all of them. 🙂

        You humble me with your compliments Trang. I am so happy that we have met and I don’t know how to describe it, but I think our hearts speak a similar language even if we express it differently. So I am equally honored to call you a friend too and hope that this is just the tide starting to come into our friendship. 🙂

        • That’s such a positive way to look at it. I had some similar things happen to my mom, but she didn’t have an alcoholic problem, rather drugs. She too grew up in hardship, so I understand. I love how you try to look at his positive qualities in him rather than the see him only for his struggles. 🙂 I’m inspired!!

          • It’s not easy though, it’s a place that I was only able to reach because I talked to my dad, tried to understand, let him know how he made me feel by his drinking and a lot of crying from both of us!

            I think part of the problem that children have growing up with a parent with drug or alcohol addiction is that we don’t understand how they can both love us and then hurt us by destroying themselves through drinking/drugs. Miss moments that we wish they could have been there for. He missed all my graduations, and in a weird fit of logic he thought it was best to miss my sister’s as well. Drugs and alcohol after years of abuse affect higher reasoning and so my dad sometimes still makes bad decisions. I often describe living with an alcoholic as if you were living with two people. The sober person, and the one drinking. They are very opposite. One seems to love you and one doesn’t. It’s a tough journey to realize that they are just one person, a person who has a lot of problems, but one that loves you as much as they can. And just maybe if he knows I love him as he is, he might just change for the better. 🙂

            He is going to come out when my son is born and hopefully he will be able to be there at the hospital. He might even be more excited than I am! He cries every time I show him an ultrasound. When I moved away from home I was so glad to get away from it all and just assumed that I’d never really just drift away from home and not maintain a close relationship. I really would have lost a lot had that happened, and I am so glad that I decided to face him and tell him how his drinking made me feel. It was a beginning of journey that has ended with peace in my heart. 🙂

  2. Is Anybody There?

    How often have we cried out for comfort or guidance, to something we neither see nor hear? After being told throughout our lives in one way or another, there is someone listening, it seems the natural thing to do. But when prayer seems like your talking to the air, it can leave an already empty heart, most unsettled. Sometimes we stop trying altogether…for a while. But do we ever stop completely? Within lies a voice that just doesn’t seem to let us.
    I too have been one of those, left feeling no one was there. Even giving up, more or less. But many years later, during a most dire time, I began bargaining and making deals, as I hung on by a thread. We should be careful about the deals we make during these times of tribulation, for someone is… listening. * laughs*
    Off I went back to sleep, forgetting the deal I so earnestly made, even though it was obvious…someone heard. Until one day, I was reminded with a return phone call, in the sweetest and yet, you’ve got to be kidding way. I can’t speak for anyone but me and so that’s all I am speaking of. There is someone there, listening to every word, every thought, and when its your turn to hear,what you thought was nothing, you find is a whole lotta something. And life will never be the same again.
    There isn’t a little old man sitting up in the sky, waiting for you to ask of him, all the things from your wish list, nor waiting to get you out of a pinch. Oh how limited our thinking and heart is. Life’s not about taking, its about giving… about love. And so the next time you think of making a phone call, why don’t you do something different and say, “ How can I serve you Father” from a thoughtful heart, and allow Him to show you who really is on the other end of that call…with a love like no other. For in love, we are never alone.

  3. Real stuff as always, T.
    But how would you know what (if anything) God wants? That’s where I left off… Once I left Xty, I realized that all concepts of “God’s desires” were simply the constructs of one religion or another. Once you let go of those bases, what would you pray about?
    Daniel

  4. I don’t pray anymore either, except in rare occasions when I am in a crucial situation. But I agree with Daniel, how do I know what God wants for me? How should I know how to pray? I used to pray to God as if He is a vending machine, willing to give me whatever I want. But what I currently do is claim or patience, wisdom, and acceptance.

  5. Praying for God’s will may certainly allow the unexpected (you may honestly feel like all hell has broken loose) HOWEVER His will for you is ultimately better than anything you could desire for yourself.

    Surrender IS scary but the benefits are greater than the potential pain. Trust God. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose. If you’ve tried everything else to give you peace without success, Try God.

    Prayer can be short, its your sincerity of heart that matters. Allow HIm to meet you where you are right now. And don’t over think it. God doesn’t follow our sense of reason 😉

  6. My friend Jack Saunsea gave the most insightful response to this prayer post on contemplation center and it reads

    “Prayer, to me, isn’t something to do or force, really. When we see that we are one with God, it’s like there is a non-stop inseparable connection. Prayer is always happening, but we in our minds think there are times we are not or are praying. That’s one sense of prayer, I think. In another sense, I would say prayer might be taking time out to be silent, still, in the way of practicing contemplation or meditation. Although, even with this form of prayer I think it is something that is happening every moment – all the time. I think people have “quiet times” or go to their “prayer closet” because we think we need to take that action to really pray. Doing such things may certainly help or encourage prayer, but when prayer, contemplation, meditation becomes a lifestyle we are one with the river of life, one with God.”

  7. Your friend gave a great answer regarding prayer. To me, prayer is also a way to simply be silent, listen to nature, and relax. It is a way to acknowledge our insignificance in this huge universe. Prayer is to simply be.

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