When I was a seriously troubled teenager, my mom went to Catholic mass (even though she converted 30 years ago) every week to pray for me. Since I got through that trying time, prayer and consciousness of some godly force have been a constant part of my life. My friends who are into it too call it the “God Club.” And generally speaking, pretty much all the things I pray for happen. I don’t know how that works, but I don’t think it’s magic or that some real live manforce in the sky is intervening in my pathetic life.
I have to pray in the super traditional, childhood “hey there god it’s me ann you’re the best thanks for the mastadon and keeping me healthy at hueco i promise I’ll try to be nicer to douchbags in the future. ok listen I have a problem and here it is can you help?” way. I think that hearing myself state the problem to someone I believe can make miracles happen, the miracle I want becomes a lot more clear, and then it doesn’t seem like such a miracle after all, and I find a satisfying solution pretty quickly.
But before I pray about a problem, it’s like I’m standing at Home Depot, with only the foggiest notion of what it is I want to make. I don’t know what aisle anything is on, or even what category it would fall under. I don’t understand the store layout, and I’m paralyzed. I start to get mad. Goons I don’t trust keep approaching and asking me if I need help. I keep saying no, and wandering around looking at shower stalls and washing machines and grills and boxes of screws until I’m delirious, playing with the Ralph Lauren paint-color-matching machine, trying to make my outfit into a paint scheme for the exterior of a bungalow that I don’t even have anymore/yet. But after I pray, it’s like some patient Home Depot guy with nothing pressing listened to my jumbled explanation of my project and said, “I don’t know if that product exists, but you might try aluminum water-proofing tape. Let me show you my favorite brand.”
Anyway, I started thinking about this when I was reading about the Mi She’berach, the Jewish healing prayer. I read this interesting essay about just what the hell it is rational people are doing when we start asking for direct godly intervention in human lives.
On a somewhat more abstract level, this prayer seems to function less as a request for literal fulfillment of a petition but rather a means of setting one’s heart in the right direction.
I thought that was nice.