The Power of Prayer, “No” IS an Answer, and the Freedom to Not Be In Control

I am a control freak.  I freely admit it.  While I may not completely agree that Asperger’s syndrome should be in the same category as autism, and I’ve never really thought of myself as being “autistic lite,”  (I do function fairly well out in the neurotypical world) but I can identify with the Rain Man really well on the whole routine and habit thing.  Although I don’t necessarily insist on buying my underwear at K-Mart, (I don’t live anywhere close to a K-Mart, going in to the Wal Mart near me is more terrifying than being the last one left standing in an ’80’s slasher flick, so I generally go to Target for such things) I have a certain brand and style that I pretty much buy and wear exclusively.  I have certain things that I like and certain order I like to maintain in my world.  I only like to change my routine when it’s my idea.

One of the really wonderful things about the Serenity Prayer is that it’s a big reminder on Who is really in control, and thanks be to God, it is NOT me.   That is a liberating statement.  The fate of the free world does not hinge upon whether or not things go my way or whether or not I screw things up or even if I forget to do things.  It really has absolutely nothing to do with me, so I am free to play word games on the DS and to turn up the volume on the TV when Jerry starts in on his drunk and stupid diatribes in the middle of the night.

As a child growing up with a Very Strict old-school Catholic mother (someday I will have to expound on old-school Catholic motherhood for those who never had the distinct privilege of enduring purgatory here on Earth) there were Acceptable and Non-Acceptable prayers.

Acceptable prayers were: The Our Father (without the “and thine is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever” line that the “heathen Protestants” add on,) and the Hail Mary.  You could never go wrong, if you were asked to pray, if you said either the Catholic version of the Our Father, or the Hail Mary.

Unless of course, you were asked to say Grace, which had to be Catholic Grace.  No “Protestant heathen” Grace, such as, “God is great, God is good and we thank Him for our food.”  You dared not even to use the longer Lutheran Grace which is often sung, and starts out with, “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow.”  It had to be the “Bless Us Our Lord, for These Thy Gifts” prayer, that’s Catholic Grace, and Mom liked to always add a few lines on the end of  it about her friend Judy’s boils, or about starving kids in Africa, or a thinly veiled nag fest on how Dad needed to stop smoking (he eventually did do that) and straighten up and go to Mass and be converted to Catholicism (don’t see that happening, ever.)

Acceptable Prayer also included confession.  It was OK to tell God how nasty you were for having fantasies about sending your sadistic older sister to Africa with the starving kids, or how you got the telemarketers to quit calling the house by telling them Mom is not home because she’s been committed to the Asylum for the Insane, and she won’t be back for a year or two.

Non-Acceptable Prayers included such things as:

“Protestant heathen” prayers, unless you were praying for the “Protestant heathens’ ” conversion.

Praying for stuff for yourself such as money, a pony, a remotely human looking boyfriend, a dirt bike, clean socks, or new clothing that actually fits, of your own choosing.  You weren’t supposed to waste God’s time with your selfish demands when there were far more pressing problems in the world such as Judy with her boils, Dad puffing away on cigarettes whilst being a “Protestant heathen,”  and  of course, there’s starving kids in Africa.

Praying for retribution- even if your sisters really do deserve to either be sent to Africa or to be abducted by space aliens, and even if the boys who put the used condom in your book bag really should wake up with a wicked case of jock itch for their trouble.

I prayed for a lot of crazy things when I was a child, and if I were God (in retrospect) I would have had to say no also.  It’s probably a good thing that my sisters didn’t end up in Africa.  They’d have gotten wicked sunburn.  Nobody in their right mind would have given me a Porsche 911 when I was 16 either.   Nobody in their right mind would give me a Porsche 911 now that I’m 42.  The distressed Subaru DL with its vicious oil leak, and four different sizes and tread patterns of tires, that I did end up with when I was 16, was oddly sufficient.  But “no” is an answer.  I prayed to be tall.  I’m 5’4′, the perfect height for “petite” pants to be high waters and for “regular” pants to drag the ground.   God has a sense of humor.  I prayed to be physically attractive, or at least not to have “the face that stopped a thousand trucks.”  I have the proportions of a mutant troll, and I have a face and hair combo that would scare the bejesus out of small children and dogs if not for hair color and strategically placed makeup.  Again, God has a sense of humor.

If nothing else, my purpose in being kept vertical and drawing breath is to keep the Clairol and Maybelline folks in business, as well as ensuring that someone will always be out there to buy capri pants, whether or not they are technically in style.

I don’t want to run the universe.  I’m happy enough to have my own TV remote.  At this point in my life all I ask is for the grace to take what I’ve been given and roll with it- to be rich enough that I am not forced to steal, and to have enough to share with others.  No, I will never be beautiful, or even free from excessive body hair without continual vigilance.  No, I will never have a doting spouse, or piles of money, or anything even close to what the world calls success.  So what.  I belong to God, and He has good plans for me- and they will probably even be funny.

If God said, “No,” then apparently I didn’t really need what I asked for.  God knows what I need, but a lot of the time I don’t have the good sense to see it unless He shows me.  A lot of times He has something a lot better for me than the thing I asked for that He said “No” to, but I would never gotten to that point without getting that “No” answer first.

The importance of prayer is not so much in praying for the “right” things but in the whole process of seeking, knocking and asking (see Matthew 7:7-8.)  It’s OK to ask God for what in retrospect may be very silly things.  God always has the perogative to say “no.”

I have more than a few friends and acquaintances who claim to be atheists, and they are free to believe there is no God. I can’t argue for the existence of God only to quote the words of a wise Lutheran Pastor- “If you are saved, it is to the glory of God alone, but if you are damned, the fault lies upon you alone.”

But I fail to see a logical answer for life, for order, for the existence of the universe itself,  in random chance.  I fail to see any kind of omnipotence in mortal men.  Everyone who has attempted to “rule the world forever” has fallen in a blaze of failed glory.  Even those who have attempted to usurp power that isn’t rightfully theirs on a smaller scale have ultimately failed.

I make a lot of jokes regarding the current President and what I consider to be his dangerous, evil and failed policies, but it really isn’t funny.  I know that Christians are called to pray for the leaders of their government- even when praying seems like a silly thing to do because the person or situation you’re praying about seems utterly pointless.  But sometimes God answers “Yes” to impossible things, because He is in control and I am not.

So I’ll keep on praying that Obama gets impeached- or at the very least that the damage he does do will be limited and fixable, and that his heart will be changed from evil to good.  God may say “No” to my prayers for very good reasons that I can’t see, but He still wants me to pray.  Even if it’s silly.  Even if it’s trivial. After all, what do we talk to our friends about?  Do we address our friends with rote quotes using archaic words like “thee” and “thine?” Do we shield our friends from the rather unsavory parts of our lives, and try to put up a happy front when in reality we are pissed off and want to take someone’s head off?

Prayer is just conversation.  Sometimes it’s silly, sometimes it’s serious, sometimes it’s angry, sometimes it is the wordless, airless, deep-void lamentation of grief.  God wants to hear it all- not so much the memorized “thee” and “thine” stuff (though rote prayer can be a good starting point, especially when your mind has lost its words) but He wants all of us-  the heartfelt anguish and questioning of Job, the joy (and repentance) of David, and the humble trust and obedience of Mary.

Save by the grace of God…

I’m glad He’s in control and not me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s