I’m not arrogant enough to believe that I’m the first person to ask this kind of question. I’m sure everyone reading this has had these same thoughts. So, help me out here. Help me pin this practice down.
I don’t understand why we claim there is power in prayer when it grants blessings and protections to some and not others. I know I’m supposed to believe that some answers are yes, and some are no… but I’m increasingly convinced that people just randomly pray for things that happen upon them anyway. I like the idea of a God who manages my affairs by making things happen or preventing them to keep me safe and happy. I can find comfort in that. However, I can’t abide a God who does that for one person and not another. I can’t find comfort in that God. Instead of believing there is a grand plan behind one person living and another dying, or one person getting a job while the other remains unemployed, or one couple conceiving a child and the other still struggles with infertility (I could go on and on), it is simply easier for me to accept that God doesn’t actually control these things.
Don’t get me wrong; I still believe our Heavenly Parents and Christ are with us. I believe in the sacrifice of my Savior, and I believe in the healing power of Grace. I believe in a God that celebrates the joys and mourns the sorrows and feels it all as keenly as we do (or more so). But I’m coming to believe, more and more, that agency is a much bigger part of the plan than even we—Mormons who are pretty obsessed with it—give it credit.
There is a sentiment that I’m sure you’re familiar with that goes something like, “Don’t worry about anything, just tell God everything!” The idea, I’ve always assumed, is that God will take care of all the things worrying you, and so you can let it go. I guess this gives people hope, and that is fine. But too often I am left with the knowledge that God knowing everything doesn’t mean I have nothing to worry about. With prayer, sometimes things will turn out the way we hoped and sometimes they won’t. Of course, the same is true of life without prayer. It seems to me that is likely because prayer just isn’t really the deciding factor there.
I keep praying, though. I’ve found that what I pray for has changed. I pray for guidance, and I pray for peace. I still believe in a power and strength that comes from having a continual, engaging conversation with my God from day to day. I believe it keeps me focused and… sane. Perhaps the same could be true of meditation, but I also enjoy a sense of relationship with my Heavenly Parents. But I no longer pray for results, and I no longer pray for a specific outcome. I think our Heavenly Parents are too bound by our agency to grant that kind of prayer.
Tell me, what is prayer to you? What do you pray for?