To Pray or Not to Pray
I have a lot of prayer stories. Some small and kind of insignificant to anyone but me. Some huge and amazing for both me and for others. Some that went unanswered about terrible things that broke my heart and if I hadn’t had so many really unusual answers to prayer, those seemingly unanswered ones would have broken my faith. This will be posts in installments. They will focus on actual prayers and answers, but this first chapter is a very condensed account of my journey before those.
C. S. Lewis is quoted as saying that it isn’t that we don’t believe in a God that wants the best for us. It’s that we are afraid of how hard the best will be. That pretty much nails it.
My journey went from being brought up Christian, to abandoning my faith in religion. And between disillusion with religion and some painful personal losses, I decided that if there was a God, I didn’t like him very much. And it was less scary to not believe in God, since God might not like me either.
I decided that humanity was on its own, so we would have to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. The short version is that first I tried to help make things better through politics. I supported a poor guy, because I thought he would work to help poor people. It turned out he had higher political ambitions, so he needed more money and kickbacks were his way of getting it. I next worked to elect the richest one running, thinking he had enough money that hopefully he wouldn’t need to rob the people. But it turned out he got his money that way and it was a habit now. So, the next election I voted for the first woman to run for a significant office, thinking that we hadn’t been in politics long enough to become corrupt. Wrong. She got caught before she even got elected.
I then decided to put my energies and time into working for civil rights. Going between working in the ghetto and socializing with my Southern upper middle class neighbors and friends made me realize it was going to take more than laws to change people.
So, I went back to college to study Psychology. And I found that while Psychology could help people change for the better, most people didn’t think they needed to change and even the ones that were miserable didn’t want to ask for help.
About this time, some friends decided to give up their affluent life style and secure job in the family business to work as missionaries to college students through a nondenominational organization called Campus Crusade for Christ. We thought they had lost their minds when they came to parties and not only danced with each other, but talked about Jesus. Most of us thought they would come to their senses pretty soon after a taste of their new life style and we tried to tactfully slip away when they started the Jesus talk. But a part of me envied believing in something enough to change your whole life.
After a year in their new life style, they came to town and asked some of us to invite our friends to a “Christian” coffee where several women would give short talks about changes in their lives. I invited friends promising the talks would be short and the food would be delicious. The women talked about asking Jesus to be their Savior and Lord and about the changes that came in their values and relationships. One then led the group in saying that prayer, which I did not join in saying. As I gathered china cups, most of the women were in tears and talking and hugging the speakers. The woman that led the prayer cornered me, asking if I had said the prayer. I said that I had not, because I didn’t believe in God and I thought Jesus was a good person, but delusional. She didn’t blink. She just asked if I would say the prayer, “Jesus, if you are the Son of God and our Savior, then I want you as my Savior and Lord. Please give me the grace to become the person I was created to be.”
When I thought about it, that seemed like a “win/win.” If he wasn’t, I didn’t have anything to lose. If he was, I really wouldn’t want to miss it. So, I said the prayer, then went back to playing Martha in the kitchen. As I washed dishes, I wondered if anything would change for me. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed by sheer joy. I knew with both mind and heart that I was loved unconditionally even when I was denying God and Jesus. Driving in the car, I wanted to sing and the only thing I could think of was a children’s song. I drove with tears flowing, singing with all my voice and heart, “Jesus loves me.” And I realized that what I knew now, that I did not the day before was that simple and that amazing.