Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Prayer Echos

Prayer was always a bit of a mystery to me, but especially so when I was growing up.  So when I was young, I never understood exactly how it was supposed to work.  It seems that nobody tells children the technical details about prayer is supposed to work, and that's probably a good thing for indoctrination.

Of course, when you're young, your prayers are pretty simple:  thank you God, protect my family, oh, and please get me a shiny new bicycle, the big wheel just isn't cutting it any more.  God, please help me find my wallet which I have lost for the twentieth time.  Etc.  So I would say these things and somehow know that God heard them.

Yet I wasn't insulated from the world of prayer around me, in that I heard what older people were saying.  God spoke to them.  God spoke to them!  They prayed, and they heard from God.

Why wasn't I hearing from God?  Why wasn't God speaking to me?  All those times I had prayed before, all I had ever heard was my own voice echoing in my head.

At that time, I was too young to really think about why that may be.  I was somewhat content knowing that God heard my words even if I didn't hear back from him, and somewhat distracted by the joys of being a little boy, but the question didn't go away.

In my teen years the question jumped right back in my face with a vengeance as I began to take a more adult and robust entry into the faith.  I kept trying to have a dialog with God, but it never really worked.  I would ask questions to God, and sometimes I would get responses, but those responses were little more than my own anxious mind filling in the blanks to answer my own question.

I was tempted to believe that it was God answering, but I just couldn't accept that as being the case, given that the answer always came in the same tone of inner dialog as when I would ask myself if I wanted one or two scoops of ice cream.  I expected more from God.  Something I could recognize as only His response.  Something which might just leave me trembling.  Yet all I heard were empty echos, and the sound of my own inner voice.

How about you?  What was your prayer life like when you were young, and later as an adult believer?


  1. Mine were much like yours. When I was a child I prayed with the innocence of a child. I could pray child-like prayers and walk away knowing I was heard and not really expecting an answer so much. As an adult, however, I began to expect an answer to my prayers because scripture tells us to. All I ever heard in response was my own voice repeating back memorized scripture in response to whatever I prayed. The answer I most often received was "God works all things together for good for those who love him". That way if the outcome were good or bad I was comforted in the knowledge that somehow, some way God would work it to my good. I learned long ago that God doesn't answer audibly, he answers through his word. Now my mind seems like the grand canyon, and I'm calling out memorized verses that just echo through the empty space where I thought God was and bouncing off the hard surfaces of what actually is.

  2. Yeah, D'Ma. "All I ever heard in response was my own voice repeating back memorized scripture in response to whatever I prayed." I got that too. :-)

    Although, to some extent, I think that this can show you that if you take a quiet moment to ask yourself "what should I do?" or some similar question, your mind just might bounce back with a good answer which you would not have come to without that time of quiet reflection.

  3. I still ruminate in quiet reflection on the questions, I just don't necessarily call it prayer anymore. There is much to be gained in meditating. Scripture still comes to mind and it does still inform my situations as there is valuable advice in much of it, it just doesn't govern them like it used to.

  4. My prayers, from as far back as I remember, (4ish) were full of fear. I usually prayed when I was scared and the picture of sitting on god's lap was comforting.
    Most of my prayers were for the healing of others. Often no one was healed. Then, the fault was mine. So, I had to repent. Again and again, with tears so deep I couldn't cry but scream.
    I often prayed when I felt helpless, for example, since I couldn't physically help little girls abandoned on the road in India or stop wars in Africa or even make my mom better. It was a way of doing something.
    I also thought of verses and had pictures (visions?) pop into my head. Anything good or positive I couldn't take credit for- that came from god.
    I like not praying :) But I would like to learn to meditate.

  5. Ouch prairienymph! That's a painful cycle to be in. I'm so happy that you were able to break through the guilt. :-)

    You were a much better at praying than I was, at least as far as praying for people who were completely outside of my daily interactions. To those with super-compassionate hearts such as yourself, I can just imagine how deep the burden and guilt could layer on within the faith. Thanks for sharing.

    It's funny, but I was just thinking about that "if it's good it came from God" theme today.

    I'd like to learn meditation too. :-)

  6. I loved praying. Sometimes I think I'll make myself a god and will pray to it. As a Christian, I understood that God speaking to me meant that little voice inside me that told me to do the right thing.

    I still hear the voice, but I miss the conversations that helped me figure stuff out.

  7. I remember praying as a kid asking for healing, every time I had pain. The pain would always go away and I considered god was answered favorably to me. Sometimes I'd ask for someone else, but it was usually just for me and for sicknesses relieving. As I grew up, I decided to experiment: "what if I wouldn't pray? surely god knows when I need help if it fits with his/her master plan" again, my problems where solved and I considered that as an all loving god taking care of me. I even had dreams where some impersonation of god would tell me how special I was and that I should be ready for one very special assignment he/she had for me in the future.

    Then, I got really sick 2 almost years ago. I already was on my way on the "losing the faith" path since I was more of a deist, even while I could recite many obscure bible verses and have medium level discussions with very religious people. When I got 'really' sick, I didn't pray, I kind of knew it wouldn't help. I just questioned myself: "Why would god do this to me? What did I do wrong?"

    Last year, I got kidnapped by local police man and while at the beginning I knew it was going to be just an assault, eventually I believed I was going to be assassinated and began to pray, one second after I realized I was letting panic to own me, there was going to be no magical help and that if I wanted to maximize my chances to live, I'd have to think quick and good. Then I began to take control of the situation and fortunately got out of it remarkably good (minus my cellphone and credit cards, they left the car and wouldn't take me to my house to theft more).

    I'm no longer looking for magical help, now I look for good friends to help me in times of need and I have become to believe more and more that we make our live's significant by the relation we have with each other.

  8. @Lorena:
    You were much better at prayer than I was too! :-) I know what you mean, though, about those internal conversations. Don't worry, I heard a report a long time ago that said people who talk to themselves actually tend to be more intelligent than other people. ;-) I think I used to speak to the same little voice before, just not as often. Well, maybe not the *same* voice. It would be odd if I was speaking to you little voice. Then again, that might be kind of cool. :-) Thanks for the comment!

    Wow man! You seem so vibrant and alive on FB that I never would have suspected that you got really sick, or that you live in an area where you are at risk from the local police! Even though I barely know you, what I do know of you makes it seem to me that the world would be at a loss of a good man if your kidnapping had turned fatal. I am so happy that you were able to survive! :-)

    That reminds me of a time when I got really bad food poisoning. I was on the road away from home. To skip the disgusting details, let's just say that I was severely dehydrated and malnourished after about 36 hours of not being able to keep anything in my system. I remember being in the bathroom, grasping on to the toilet, weakened to the point of shaking, and wondering if I should solicit God for help. At that point, I was already well down the path of atheism. It was just the nature which I was trained in as a child was coming back to me: pray to God when you are in need.

    Like you though, I only thought about it for a second or two before I realized that if I was going to survive, I was going to have to take matters into my own hands. On pure will power, I pushed myself to go outside and walk down to the store to get some food.

    I also completely agree with you about friends, and if you are lucky, family too, make our lives significant, enriched, and strong.

  9. @Lorena I think we share your feeling, and this guy too: http://boingboing.net/features/savage.html

    @Wise Thanks man, I appreciate your comments. It is really nice to meet people who shares this experiences =)

    By the way, I'll gladly tell you how to get out of trouble while in Mexico, I've got plenty of experience =P

  10. LOL Carlos! I do sometimes have to go near Brownsville Texas for work. I haven't made it it across the border there yet, but I hear I might need some get-out-of-trouble skills there! :-)