Tuesday, March 06, 2007

On prayer...

As we all know, when you go through something big, like say, infertility or the adoption process, you tend to think about God more than usual. I know it from experience, and I see it in the blogs I read every day.

Of particular interest is when bloggers ask readers to pray that some piece of paperwork gets there, or gets signed, or is overlooked…. or that some particularly nail-biting part of the process happens in our favor, quickly and without too much suffering. And when I read those words “pray for us” or “keep us in your prayers” - I always scrunch up my face and think “Don’t you know it doesn’t work like that?” I mean, really, if all it took was to just ASK God for something, wouldn’t we all be home with children by now, most by an uncomplicated pain-free natural birth? (And wouldn’t I be wearing size 4 jeans?) More mystifying yet is that we think that if A LOT of people ask ALL AT ONCE then God can’t help but listen? Do we really think that the Almighty can be swayed like that? Interesting concept, but I don’t think so. He’s much too smart for that.

When I went through my infertility treatments, I prayed a lot. Please God, I want this so badly, not just for myself, but for my husband and our families. Please God, I’ll be a good mother, you know I will. During our final treatment, I wore religious medals of Saint Gerard and the Virgin Mary. I said a novena specific to for those wishing to conceive. I visited a church near work and kneeled and prayed to Mary. Despite all that we got bad news yet again. Even though I knew in my heart it didn’t work that way. Silly rabbit, miracles are for kids.

So I don’t pray much anymore, not in the traditional sense anyway. If that sounds blasphemous, I don’t mean it that way. While I don’t go to church all that often, I do very much believe in God. We’ve settled our differences for the time being – as I’ve said before, I could hardly argue with the Guy who made it possible for Seamonkey to be sleeping in the crib in the former guest bedroom…. But basically, I’m like - if all this is up to him, what am I asking for? What’s the point? It even kind of bugs me now when people “waste” prayers on trivial things. As if praying about getting the nurse at your doctor’s office to notarize your letter by 4:00 somehow makes a difference. Maybe it’s a case of, “it didn’t work for me, so why should it work for you?”. Yeah that’s probably it. Well, I guess the bitterness of barrenness has never really left me, huh? Tell me something I didn’t know.

Anyway, I approach the whole God thing a little differently these days. I acknowledge Him in little odd moments –not sure how to explain that exactly – but I recognize His presence and acknowledge His hand in things. Like on a particularly beautiful sunny day at the beach, after a fun day laughing my guts out with cousins, or when my new son has fallen asleep in my arms. During those dark moments too – when someone has died or fallen ill, or when the news tells you nine more soldiers died today. I try to remember to say thank you for the good stuff, and for the bad stuff I pray for the strength to deal with whatever happens – whether it’s for me or someone else. It may not be enough, and I may have this all wrong, but it’s the best way I know to understand and cope with the unfair randomness of life.

So when you’re asking me to pray that your application gets approved or your pee stick turns the right shade of pink, know that what you’re really getting from me is my wish that you can handle the results whatever they turn out to be. But ‘crossing my fingers’? That I can do for you, sure. Toes too, no extra charge.


Anonymous said...

What Keeps Us From Knowing God's Will?

1. Resentment: Sometimes we get angry that God is not doing things our way. Resentment deafens our ears to God's voice. But God is not a genie who fulfills our wishes whenever we rub Him the right way. He's a partner in our lives, even down to the least significant detail.
2. Praying wrongly: Most of us pray hoping to change God. The fact is, God is unchanging and unchangeable. We change ourselves when we pray. Prayer aligns our thinking with God's, and it lets us and all the hosts of heaven and hell know that we have aligned our thinking with God's.

3. Idolatry: Only God knows and understands all the facts involved in our situations and search for ministry. If we think we know better than He does, we are worshiping ourselves, believing that we are gods greater than God Himself.

4. Human reasoning: Our desires, perceptions, and ideas all speak to us about what we think the answer from God should be. We come up with all the pros and cons of a decision, and although God may use these to help us come to the right decision, we must not allow them to control our decision-making process. The list of pros and cons should glorify God, rather than worldly wisdom. Besides that, the list is not the answer to prayer; it is an opportunity for more prayer.

5. Opinions of others: Human reasoning often speaks to us through well-intentioned friends and family. One of the worst ways to try to hear God is by soliciting the opinions of those who have not prayed for the answer. Yet, this is what we most often resort to. It's a habit to which we easily succumb, and it's hard to break. We seek the advice of all the people we know, and we end up with many different opinions, causing more confusion than we had in the beginning. It could be that none of them have given us God's answer. Better that we spend that same amount of time in prayer alone with God, relying on the words of only those who truly trust God and seek His will for their own lives.

6. Human desires: We can never totally trust our own minds and hearts. Before we can listen for God's voice, we need to get all of our personal desires out of the way. We must surrender them, nail these intruders to the cross with Jesus and let them die. Here is one way to do this in prayer:

"Father, in the name of Jesus, and by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, I make it an act of my will to die to all human reasoning and my own desires on this issue. It doesn't matter at all what I think or what I desire; it's what You think that counts, what You desire for me. With an act of faith, I thank You, Lord, that You have seen the sincerity of my heart, and that You see I am not going to operate on human reasoning or desires, and I ask You to silence the voice of my Self. I delight in doing Your will."

When we pray, instead of saying "Lord, help me," we should say "Lord, use me." When we say "help me," that means all we're asking for is some assistance. We still hold the reigns, we still hang onto control of the situation or the ministry. But when we say "use me," that's total surrender. And in surrender, we hear God and really see Him work in us and through us.

7. Disobedience: When God says go, we should go. When God says change your plans, we try out the new plan. When God tells us to do something, we do it. That's the greatest freedom any of us could ever dream of having.

8. Taking too little time to listen: Most of us don't want to take the time to stop and listen to God's voice. It takes too much effort to scan through scriptures to find guidance, so we do our own thing and hope it's okay with God.

Hearing God takes a yielded will. To surrender our will to God's, we must be willing and ready to obey whatever God tells us to do. To surrender our will, we have to have a clean heart. Unconfessed sins get in the way. So does impatience. We need to wait and give God time to clean out our hearts and reveal His plans. When we wait, that means we really believe that God is doing what's best for us. As we refuse to give up, persisting in prayer, we prove that we believe that God will finally communicate His will. Only then will the answer finally come.

9. Doubt: Since we can never be sure that we have fully surrendered to God, it's good to pray, "Lord, if this answer is from You, then I accept it. Please increase it in me until there is no room for doubt." Then we watch for results. Does the same message stop coming? Or does it grow, and does a sense of inner assurance grow with it?

We need to wait for God to reveal His answer in more than one way. God will confirm His instructions, and the more important the decision, the more He will give us confirmation. He'll leave no room for doubt. We'll hear it when we turn on a Christian radio station, such as our own Catholic WBVM 90.5 FM and WLMS 88.3 FM. We'll get a newsletter in the mail that speaks of the same idea. We'll hear the priest mention it in his homily, or we'll sing about it in a hymn.

10. Distrust: If we think God doesn't have our best interests at heart, or if we think God doesn't really care about us, we can't hear Him call us to ministry. To cure this, we can thank God for the guidance that He gives before we are sure He has given it. This is the same as saying, "God, no matter how deaf I am to You, no matter what distracts me from Your voice, You are bigger than the obstacles. You are bigger than me. Therefore, I trust that You will make Your will known to me, and You will keep trying until you get through to me, and You will help me desire to do Your will."

Dirkey said...

Thanks anonymous, I find it strange that you posted this now, AFTER you have seamonkey in your arms. I think there are alot of things you have wrong in your thinking of prayer, mostly our importance in it. As annonymous said we don't pray to change God but we pray that God would change us. We are not God how can we assume to know better than Him. Bad things happen, thats it. Not because God's not paying attention or enough people haven't prayed but just because. I believe there is a plan and a purpose for these things, even if I don't pretend to know it. I will pray for you and seamonkey as I did while you were in the process to get him. I pray that you will petition the Lord with thankfullness for that little boy that you have.

Jenni said...

Very brave post Starfish! I appreciate your candor and willingness to address a controversial issue.

While I do believe in God, I'm not a very religious person, and I always have some difficulty understanding the importance people place on prayer. I don't think they are wrong for their belief in prayer, but since it has never been a huge part of my life, I have trouble putting myself in their "spiritual shoes."

I do find it a bit amusing though, when I see people pray for things to get themselves ahead. For example, when some people on "Survivor" prayed to God to not get voted off the island, I couldn't help thinking, "I'm sure God has more important things to do the make sure you get to stay on a game show!"

That's why, when I wish for things (kind of like my own version of prayer, I guess), I make sure to do so very carefully. During my struggle with infertility and the adoption process, I had one wish, and it was the same throughout - that I would get the opportunity to raise happy, healthy children. The little steps along the way were not big enough (in my mind) to warrant a prayer or wish. It was the end goal that seemed most important to focus on.

When it comes to praying or wishing for smaller stuff, I just figure that world poverty, wars and hunger take priority over my own small concerns.

Elle said...

Love the topic. I agree with you though. And you know me... the church going lady. Hell, I even work for a church.

I don't think we can ask God to give us what we want. I believe we have to give it up and let go and let God. It isn't up to us. I to pray that those asking for "help" gain the strength to handle the result.

Irshlas said...

Good grief. With all due respect, what is it about using the word G-d in a post that brings out the uberfaithful? Faith is circular logic. If it works for you, great. Lucky you. If it doesn’t, then it doesn’t. Lucky you. How interesting that when good things happen it was all thanks to Him. If things go bad, it was part of His plan to teach us? Give me a break. I can make Nostradamus’ quatrains make sense too with that kind of thinking.

Oh, and HIM. I’m sorry.. since when did the male gender substitute as the only pronoun for a deity? How about Her will? (but hey - I’ll use Him for argument sake since most people will recognize such a reference.)

I find I’m absolutely repulsed by folks who mention “His will” that my son has entered my life. Really? Was it His will that my son’s first mother get pregnant when He knew she would be unable to care for him? That’s a pretty sick setup if you ask me. I’m not thankful this situation occurred at all. I’m deeply saddened by it. Am I thankful that I have the opportunity to raise this child? Absolutely, but I’m not thanking Him for it. It is what it is.

I don’t mean to offend Starfish, and you can feel free to delete my comment but this really touched a nerve with me. I too suffered from infertility and am now at the doorstep of my son’s arrival. I have been absolutely STUNNED by the number of people who have had the audacity to tell me how it was His will that my children died before birth, His will that Colin is coming to us, etc. Then again, after reading Anon’s comment, I think maybe I realize where I received my training in skepticism: nothing like a good Jesuit education to teach me to question everything. J

As for prayer, it’s the power of positive thinking. “[Insert name of deity], please look out for me, my family. Please make [{insert want/wish/desire] occur / not occur.” This nation happens to be primarily Christian. The rest of the world, not so much; however, faith is a powerful thing for many people. So is meditation. Is that prayer? And what if I don’t ask for assistance or submit myself during meditation? Am I praying? If I find joys in the everyday ordinariness of life’s events, am I praying? If you like that moniker, use it.

Thanks for posting this. I sure hope there are some more diverse opinions. I appreciate your willingness to write about the difficult topics and not to sugarcoat it for the masses!

Anonymous said...

I have never seen god, let alone HIS penis. It's all fairies at the bottom of the garden to me but if God and fairies are real can we blame them for the injustices and inequity in the world like the fact my children's birthmothers couldn't raise their children or...George Bush's existance or...is that all the fault of Santa Claus?
P.S. I can see you making this a 'no comment' zone pretty quickly. You've opened the floodgates now watch the loonies wash in. Sort of a fun diversion.

kirsten smith said...

wow. not even sure i can touch this at this point. i might have to do a post of my own because some nerves have been touched over here as well.

starfish, i think you've hit the nail on the head. prayer isn't just when we want something to turn out our way, prayer is conversation with God. our talking with Him, and listening to Him. and it is in the everyday stuff of life that this conversation happens. the thankfulness we express for the good, and the sadness we express for the bad. and when we say we will pray for someone, or should i say, when i say i will pray for someone, i mean i am talking with God about that person and their situation. asking that they feel His hand in it, whether good or bad, and that His Will be done.

i look forward to reading more comments on your post!

MMrussianadoption said...

Now tell us what you really think.

Starfish said...

Woah, hey woah...we're all friends here! LOL, these comments are very interesting. I have a mind to delete the first comment though, because no comment should be written by someone named anonymous, especially one longer than the post itself. Not sure we needed a sermon here, but that's what I get for posting about religion.

Let's keep in mind here that my post was meant to reflect my feelings on how those who DO have a relationship with God DEAL WITH PRAYER DIFFERENTLY.

This is NOT a debate on whether God exists, or whether the things that happen are in His plan. That was a given in this post because it's what I believe and I'm not going to apologize for that.

So if you're bitching at me over that, you've completely missed my point. And, if you think for one second that I am not thankful for seamonkey (or for all the prayers you have given me), then you are really an idiot and nothing I say will make a difference.

Rachael said...

I constantly struggle with some of the issues you touched on. For instance, how could God let thousands of children die from natural disasters or starvation, yet answer my prayer to bring my child home quicker? I doesn't make any sense, but, I still pray every day for God to bring my daughter home to me soon. I even still say that annoying little phrase "keep us in your prayers". It's just too scary not to. (And not because I think God would punish me for not praying, but because it's too scary to think that God's hand is not somehow in our lives, and that it's all just completely random).
On a completely different topic, since I'm new to your blog, after you emailed me, I went back this weekend and read some of your story of bringing Seamonkey home. It's a great story, by the way. Congratulations.

chou-chou said...

and what's up with the anonymous sanctimonious?

if you are going to preach at people, the least you can do is identify yourself.

Dirkey said...

Hey Starfish, reread your post and I think I jumped the gun a little bit. I know you are thankful for Seamonkey its obvious in your writing, I just got frustrated at when you posted this. After you got him, like I already got what I wanted so this is why I don't believe in prayer. It seemed a little convenient. I agree prayer isn't a wish list for God, as I put in my comment above. I wish you and your family the best, blaim in on the pre-wedding bridezilla if I seemed judgemental with you.

Starfish said...

Actually Dirkey, what I'm saying is that it's after I DIDN'T get what I wanted (getting pregnant) that I rethought the way I approached prayer, not after I got seamonkey. Yes, now that I have him home it's easier for me to accept why I didn't get my way - but so what? Don't we all have the benefit of hindsight?

Irshlas, while I think you missed the point of my post, you do raise some interesting points. We obviously disagree at the core...if you are asking me not to believe that God does not have His hand in all things, then you are asking me not to believe in His very existence..otherwise what would be His purpose? To just sit around heaven all day and eat bonbons? As for the Him vs Her thing - I was raised to believe He's a Him, if someday I'm proven wrong, I'm sure She won't mind as long as I've followed Her basic teachings.

Keep those comments coming, I can take it!!

Susan said...

I find the comments interesting and not once while reading your post did I feel the need to strap on my Bible belt and preach to you. Maybe it's because I share some of the same thoughts. While I'm a religious person and believe what I believe, I don't blame God for my dossier being stuck buried on someone's desk and being submitted one month later, I blame the unorganized assistant. And the notary at the doctor's office who didn't show up after I confirmed three times that she would be there b/c hubs and I had to coordinate times off and miss work? Oh, no. It wasn't God's will she not be there. It was the late night of partying and a hangover who kept us at bay for another few days. The end result is O is our daughter and had those things not happened, I would probably have a different kid and simply can't imagine that. Maybe it's God's will, maybe not. I, personally, don't think so. It's a matter of circumstances.

It's a sticky post but a good one. The one thing I try to practice in my blog reading and commenting is that comments are not my place to preach. If I don't like something or agree with it, I don't have to visit again or I can be adult about it and realize that it's the author's blog, their perspective, their right. Me? I'm just along for the ride.

Beagle said...

You have just proved to me to I'm a wimpy blogger . . . I can't touch these subjects without feeling the need to duck at half the replies!

Kudos to your bravery!

Maggie said...

Excellent post.

Faith is something that I struggle with. On more than one occasion I've admitted that I'm "faith dense." My questioning mind always steps in and keeps me from just believing and feeling. But I admire those who have a strong faith and I'm not scared to admit that it's something I crave.

My constant prayer is that God lead me to my child. As time goes by I try to have faith that that is still in the works. But it's hard. My weak faith often wonders if he's ever heard me at all.

I like how you said "It may not be enough, and I may have this all wrong, but it’s the best way I know to understand and cope with the unfair randomness of life." We each have our ways and whether they're right or whether they're wrong, it's what we know and how we live.

Bumble said...

I grew up going to Sunday School, and I still pray most nights, not all nights, and maybe I DO find that I pray more in times of need. But the way I see it, is that God is good and He is there for me, especially when I really need Him. And yes, at the moment, most of my prayers are "Please help me to get pregnant..." but at the same time I ask that if it doesn't turn out like that, to please help me make peace with that. I don't think you need to be a Bible basher to get into heaven, you just need to have a relationship with God and try to be a good person. Thats what I think anyway.

Anonymous said...


I have been reading through your blog. Thank you for sharing your experiences. They give me hope.

I was hoping to get information on the agency that you used to adopt your son. My husband and I have similar infertility experiences, and are now shifting gears and would like to adopt.

Thank you,

katd said...

This may be my first comment here; I can't remember. But, I read your blog regularly and wanted to throw in my two cents. Faith is a totally individual thing. I applaud your honesty. I'm not sure where I stand on so many of these things. I know I prayed like crazy through my infertility and through the failed match we just experienced, but it didn't give me the results I wanted. Having said that, I know God isn't a genie:) I pray less than I used to, also, but I think a great deal of that is because of bitterness that I need to deal with. Thanks for being brave and honest. People get so bent out of shape when someone expresses an idea different from their own. It makes me giggle a little :)

Robin said...

I just found your blogs by way of looking at knitting things. I applaud you for telling us all what you think. I think your little boy is adorable and congratulations.

Andrea said...

Today at church, my pastor said something that made me think of you and this post. I feel the same way you do- God already knows what's best for me and what's going to happen, so me begging him to change it doesn't always work, and really just wastes my (and His) time. But then, the pastor said, "I believe prayer changes destinies." Huh. Well, now I need to think about this some more. Maybe it's not my place to understand exactly how all of this works. Maybe THAT'S what I need to know. Thanks for a great and thought-provoking post.

Oh, and I also thought of you today because I told my sister how amazing Seamonkey's room is- she wants the same bedding. I told her to check out the pictures. So I guess I thought about you TWICE today :) Aren't you lucky!! ha ha

Sharon said...

Great post!
Personally, I don't pray. I believe things happen because we make them happen, or because that's just the way it is. I do think that visualizing something, telling yourself that it will happen, is a very powerful thing. I suppose that's a sort of prayer.

I totally agree in that we all need to find our own ways to cope with the poo that's flung at us as we go through life. Whether that be prayer, or meditation, or just sitting quietly in a room to think things out, we all need to find that something that helps us get through life.

Jane-Jane said...

Please hop over to my blog and check out my response. It was to long to post as a comment.

Have a wonderful day!

Anonymous said...

It's funny how people make up their own god...making the rules themselves. That's not letting God be God---it's you creating a pretend God to make yourself feel better about yourself.