November 1, 2010

Some thoughts on prayer, and other random stuff...

Most of you are probably aware that depression is a thing I've struggled with off and on (mostly on) since high school. Most of you probably aren't aware, however, that I've been going to a Bible-based class on Monday nights at the church in Molalla. We also read from a book called "Happiness is a Choice", which was written by a couple of Christian psychologists whose names escape me at the moment. Don't worry, the prayer stuff I mentioned in the title will happen along in a minute here...

Tonight we were discussing how prayer can aid with alleviating depression. Well, we started out there, anyway... we do tend to wander a bit. A question was raised about praying wrongly, or praying for something you don't actually want... praying insincerely, I guess you might call it. This spiraled into another discussion... why are people so often dishonest in prayer? Do they really think that God doesn't know what's actually in their head and in their heart? Somebody mentioned certain things that they felt they shouldn't tell God about, and my reaction was, "What, you think He doesn't know about that already??"

I was remembering back to something that made a pretty big impression on me as a teenager. I went to a youth rally - I think it was actually in Gold Beach - and the speaker there (I forget who it was, but it may have been Kevin Woods) said something to the effect of, "God is supposed to be like your father, right? So how many of you go up to your dad and say, 'Oh Father who art in the garage, if it be your will please may I have ten dollars?' None of you do that! You walk up to him and say, 'Hey Dad, can I have ten bucks?'" That made a lasting impression on my view of prayer, and perhaps also contributed to my "suburban dad" theory of God (see a previous blog entry for more on this).

Those that know me know that I'm not big on formality. Okay, actually I despise formality. And I REALLY hate it when church people, while in the church, put on a façade of being even more churchy than they actually are. This also applies to prayer. If you're going to speak to God on my behalf in front of the congregation, you'd better be speaking to God, not reciting some prayer you memorized, not using your standard form prayer where the only thing that changes from week to week is the names of the people on the sick list in the bulletin. There are certain people whose prayers I can recite almost word for word along with them, and certain people who I know will use the word 'father' at least 7 times in a 45 second prayer... unnecessarily, at that. Who, in their normal course of speaking to their dad, begins and ends nearly every sentence with the word 'father'? Nobody, that's who. 

And don't misinterpret... I'm all for giving God the respect that is due to him, but I'm also all for continuing to speak regular English. And as a language nerd, it absolutely cracks me up that people who get up to do public prayers start inserting "thee" and "thy" and the like, as if it makes them sound all formal and holy. In actual fact, "thee", "thy", "thou", etc. are the informal pronouns (direct object, possessive and personal, respectively) from old English. Back in the 1500s, you would have used those pronouns with your children or your spouse. The pronoun "you" (which was the formal pronoun) was used only with adults who were not your family members or close friends, and other people who somehow merited a great deal of respect. Most Latin-based and even Germanic languages still have the formal/informal second-person pronouns (usted/tú in Spanish, Lei/tu in Italian, Sie/du in German, and many more no doubt). English, somewhere along the line, lost our informal pronoun (thou) and decided to just use the formal one (you) all the time for everyone. So in actuality, people who think they're sounding all formal and respectful when they say "thou" or "thee" to God are actually talking to him as though he is a child or close family member/friend. And if they go into it with that attitude in mind, I'm marginally okay with it (though not completely okay, since that has fallen out of use in modern English), but most of them are not thinking of it in that light I guarantee you.

And what's with people who think they can't be honest with God, anyway!?!? It's not like he doesn't already know what you're thinking. Me personally, I'm very honest with God in my prayers. "Hey God... I'm pretty ticked off right now, and I need you to help me refrain from saying something unfortunate to _______" is a fairly common opener for me. I can be open with God on a wide range of emotions, from ticked off to depressed to horny (particularly heavy on the horny lately too, I must admit) and everything in between, because I operate on the theory that I'm not telling him anything he doesn't already know. So why pray at all, you ask? Well, I don't know about you, but with most of my close friends I already know when they're upset or whatever without them telling me about it. But of course we talk it over anyway, because that's the sort of relationship we have, and this is how relationships grow and stay strong. See where I'm going with this?

And actually, I think complete honesty is healthy in any relationship, not just your relationship with God. Thinking it over in class earlier, I realized that all of my best friendships are with the people I feel I can say anything to... the ones who know the good and the bad of me and still like me. Just recently I met someone who seems to have a similar approach to communication, and we have gone in just under 3 weeks from complete strangers to what I would term very good friends, and I think it works because neither of us feels the need to hold back anything. I really do feel I could say anything I thought or felt to this person (and this individual will probably receive a cool blog alias sooner or later) and we could discuss it like rational adults and it'd be cool. I like that.

Anyway, we need a Song o' the Day.

Song o' the Day: "Fully Alive" by Flyleaf. See/hear it here. I've chosen this one because it sort of sums up how I feel lately.