God is not dumb.

This morning I was praying casually, as I was feeling my way through the still-dark house, trying not to wake anyone up. I didn’t have a keyboard handy so I was praying in that distracted silent way that I do when I have to pray “in the rough”, and I noticed that at some point, I’d stopped “talking to God” and  started giving God this laundry list of wants/needs. What I call a “Father Christmas” prayer. I stopped myself because that’s not generally something that I do. I try not to ask God for for things I need, much less things I want, because I feel like He is much smarter than I am, and His perfect plan is not something that my tiny brain will ever be able to grasp. The things I perceive as needs might not even be good for me, much less an actual need. I generally feel like God knows what I need. He knows me better than I do, so He definitely knows what will make me happy. I feel like asking for needs and wants that fit my perception of reality is redundant, and also kind of childish.

I think its fitting that I should chose the word childish, there, since that’s how I feel a lot of times in my interactions with God. Sometimes God is a friend of mine hanging out with me in my office, and we’re having this conversation about shit in my life and I’m asking for advice, or I’m asking what He’s up to and being amazed. More often though, My interaction with God is more reminiscent of my kids clumsily trying to fit into a grown up world and impress me, making adorable (and sometimes tremendous and disastrous) mistakes as they do.

 

"Whelp, ma'am, I think we can agree this job was done even faster than our estimate. A tip is necessary, but traditional."

“Whelp, ma’am, I think we can agree this job was done even faster than our estimate. A tip isn’t necessary, but traditional.”

 

So I stopped myself from praying that way, but it got me thinking.

I said, “I don’t pray that way”. 

Taking a step back, that seemed a little bit of a superior stance to take, so I examined it. I trust that God is gonna work things out for me one way or another. I’ve seen him do it a lot of the times, but I’ve also sort of been taught my whole life, “Be careful what you pray for.”  I wondered if there wasn’t a part of that in there. Was I not asking for those things because I was afraid God couldn’t, or wouldn’t, grant it – and I didn’t want to be disappointed? Did I think, worse, that I was so dumb that I would ask for something disastrous (which, to be fair, I might) and that God really might be like some sort of jackpot genie, that gave it to me and ruined my whole life to teach me some kind of monkey’s paw lesson?

Sometimes, I think, we have these perceptions of things that are so deep-rooted in our culture that we don’t even recognize where we’ve set specific boundaries, and definitions, and labels that God never intended to set. With a proper lowering of expectations, we can prevent ourselves to seeing the magic God can work. I’m sort of terrified of that, so I try to shine light on those cultural perceptions and weigh them for more value than, “I always heard that” or “They always said this”. These things I keep, or throw away, as needed.

 

"Jesus Christ, there's a BABY in this bathwater! What the hell is this tub good for now?"

“Jesus Christ, there’s a BABY in this bathwater! What the hell is this tub good for now?”

 

This morning was one of those times. As I started asking myself these questions I realized that no, I didn’t believe any of those things would happen. God is infinite, and I am a child. I’m a blip on the radar, whose name He happens to know. A blip that for some reason, this infinite being loves. How could I really think that he would deny me good things, or give me hurtful things, to teach me a lesson? Even subconsciously, how could I really think that? So out it got thrown – hopefully for good.

I still believe that it’s unnecessary to ask God for the things that I need and want, because He knows, and will give them or not on his own time and terms. But I wonder, is it wrong to pray certain kinds of ways? I mean, I recognize that I am dumb, and that I’m always gonna be like a million steps away from “getting it” but I kind of turned that over in my mind. When Jesus gave us the template in the Lord’s Prayer, he even threw in a “give us our daily bread” section. Should it stop at saying, “Lord meet my needs today” or can that get into specifics? God is the ultimate filter for our prayer, in the same way we are to our kids’ requests for things we know they shouldn’t have. Just because they ask me for 532 things in a given day, from candy to ice-cream to some random thing they just saw a commercial for (wtf, Dreamlight? anyone?) that doesn’t mean they’re going to get all of it, or even any of it. I think my kids get like .02% of what they ask for. I mean, unless you’re spoiling the crap out of your kids, you tell them no when what they want isn’t going to do more than give them instant/temporary pleasure. Sometimes you will say yes, that’s a treat, but you know they don’t really need that toy or those shoes or whatever. So if God is our ultimate filter, did I have a right to be taking a superior stance of, “I don’t pray that way”? Or should I just trust that he is smart enough to see me, dirty faced and tugging on his pant leg asking for something ridiculous and know better than to give it to me?

 

"Look at 'em down there - daddy's adorable little idiots."

“Look at ’em down there – daddy’s adorable little idiots.”

 

What about you guys? Anything that you don’t pray for, or ways you don’t like to pray? Why do you do that?

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About Brandi Mitchell


5 responses to “God is not dumb.

  • Melissa Sutton

    As always, your candor is inspiring and reaches the heart. You think a lot like me. I like that. When I pray, sometimes it’s reverent like approaching a king, and other times it’s casual like approaching a buddy. And sometimes I don’t feel like praying at all. But prayer is an amazing thing. It moves you in such a way. And connects your mind to the divine. And when miracles happen in relation to something you prayed about, it is beyond amazing.

    • Brandi Mitchell

      I’ve had people get really touchy about the way I pray sometimes. Once in Duluth, Ryan made the mistake of asking us to group up and pray for each other. I hate doing that but the 2 little old ladies and single mom I was grouped with wouldn’t hear of me backing out.

      So someone asks for a rejuvenating prayer (Her life exhausts her. Who hasn’t been THERE, am I right?) and there’s this pause where everyone is totally silent waiting for someone to start. The silence stretches and stretches and eventually I realize that they’re waiting for me. So, I give a huge shrug and say something like:

      “Hey God, You’re always saying something like you’re the potter and we’re the clay, or we’re vessels to be filled with your spirit, and that’s awesome because Pottery is beautiful, even when its kind of lumpy or ugly. But God, that also sucks because pottery is fragile and when you fill us up with shit we get heavy, and the more we endure the more we crack and break and that shit hurts. We know you love us, and you don’t want us to hurt so I ask that you give us just a minute of rest and peace so that we don’t become leaky and have to be thrown out or wherever that metaphor goes from here. You’re awesome. Amen”

      That group totally didn’t know what to do with me. Was the prayer successful? I don’t know. But I gave some old Christians something to gossip about so I feel like it was a job well done.

      Do you feel like there’s ever a point where a prayer becomes too casual? I feel like I should but God has never once given me any indication of feeling disrespected.

  • Peter Benedict

    Brandi you continue to move me with your entries.

    In answer to your questions: I don’t like it when I am pressured to follow a prayer rule. I’ll regularly pray “God do what you want to do,” but I don’t like being told I can only ask for what God’s will is and should never ask for what I want. Sometimes I pray and ask for stuff, but I don’t like getting stuck there as a rut. I believe God heals, but I don’t feel moved to prayer for every cold/headache/etc.

    I am, perhaps somewhat like you, fairly filter-free. I say stuff that people don’t usually say, and I’m generally OK with it (as in your prayer example, which I think is awesome). So I try to learn from my prayer life, to respond to God as He intiates and responds to me, but I generally do so without self-shaming. I don’t feel like that’s how God treats me, and I don’t want to view myself as less than God sees me (nor as more!).

    Thanks for this, it’s good for me, and now I feel like praying.

    • Brandi Mitchell

      I think that pretty much sums it up, doesnt it?

      My life’s motto is “All things in Moderation” and I guess that “all” includes prayer, and types of prayer, and subjects of prayer.

      I like what you said about learning to respond to God as he initiates and responds to you. I think that’s great because I have often myself said that “If God wanted me to stop, or do things differently, I would” but I think your way of saying that is better.

      I -do- have a problem with self-shaming. Its hard to live in that tension between ego and self-degradation. Im never sure where humility stops and self loathing starts, or where acting on the gifts God gave you ends, and blatant self promotion begins. . . that’s a whole other blog post in itself.

  • BigCat

    This is great Brandi, and I loved your prayer for the older ladies in your prayer group. You should sign up to take our prayer class and then join the prayer team next time we do it, I think you would be great at it – because that is pretty much how I pray a lot of the time.

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