The last few days I’ve found myself feeling a little “messy” on the inside… It’s a general sensation that something isn’t exactly right and needs rectifying… Unfortunately, there’s not much more to the feeling than that, so figuring out exactly what aspect of life is out of whack becomes part of the challenge. Leah and I went to church this morning, and I found myself hoping that by the time I left everything in my soul would be all clean and sorted.
Fortunately, the church I attend isn’t about making you feel clean and sorted… It’s about wrestling with yourself and God. I left church today with no answers, but an awful lot of questions. I’m still muddling through the process of finding answers, but I thought in the meantime I might mention them here… Who knows, maybe you’ve got the answer I’m looking for?
The first question I’ve been pondering lately came to me a little while back. In fact, this is the question that the last two blog posts have been written in preparation for: Does the amount of effort put forth in saying a prayer have any bearing on when or how it gets answered? For example, is there a difference in saying a silent prayer in your head, than speaking it out loud, or praying for it in a group? Does using oil when we pray make a difference? Can the method change the outcome?
When the question first went flitting through my brain, my gut reaction was, “No, of course not”, but… Maybe there’s a case for it? In the Old Testament God outlines a variety of methods to complete a sacrifice using various reagents and for various purposes. Looking to show obedience? Grain offering. Need forgiveness? You’re going to have to kill an animal. In modern times, could it be that the sacrifice we make is time, energy, or effort? Speaking a prayer aloud. Crossing yourself. Assembling a prayer group. Is it possible that the more of ourselves we invest in a prayer, the more power it has?
I don’t know. I would say probably about 98% of my prayers take place silently within the confines of my head or being written out on scraps of paper. If you asked me if God answered my prayers, I’d still say “Absolutely.” God is omniscient and all of us are equal. If we’re doing our best to communicate with him no matter what the method is, I could see God respecting that.
I guess in the meantime, the best we can do is be obedient. If you feel God prompting you to pray or do something in a manner you’re not used to, I would pretty strongly recommend doing it.
Which I guess kind of leads me into my second question… Today at church I noticed that one of the prayers I pray most frequently is along the lines of, “God, help me be the man you want me to be”, or “Make me into whatever you’ve called me be.” The question I’m struggling with is, “Is that enough?” Is it enough to ask God to help me become something, or is that too passive? Is it a cop-out to believe that I’m free to do and think anything I want, and that if I come to a place where I can make a bad decision God will let me know?
I’m a thinker. It’s what I do, it’s how I roll. I think about everything, including faith. Especially faith. I live out my faith by constantly examining what I currently believe and trying to figure it out. I’ve always believed that God is big enough that if I take a wrong turn, he can pipe up and let me know it. Is that… sound theology? I’m afraid that this method makes it way too easy to justify anything I want to simply by the absence of conviction or a giant stop sign being held out from a disembodied hand in the clouds.
All of that said, I do feel like God put a good head on my shoulders. I don’t feel like I’m prone to rash decisions and I think I’m self-aware enough to catch myself if I were to engage in some form of revisionist history. I feel like my faith is pretty consistent. I guess right now I’m just struggling with whether or not I’m… “doing it right”? The tricky part is I really have no clue what it would look like to do it any other way. I fear that this whole tangent is brought about by insecurity because my faith doesn’t look the way the Church has said it’s supposed to for years and years. I don’t know. No answers to be found in this post in typical Paulish fashion… but I do hope if I’ve made you ask yourself questions you weren’t planning on asking, the struggle leads you to Shalom.