Why prayer is a problem

This is the first in a series of posts about prayer. Join me in looking at what we like about prayer, what we dislike, and how we should respond!

Prayer and wish chips

When I was little I used to search the chip packet for wish chips. Chips in general were rare, and those double folded chips were even rarer. When you ate them you were meant to make a wish. Like wish bones in chickens and blowing out birthday candles.

I still don’t know where I got the idea from.

Nevertheless, without fail I would make a wish each time I crunched a wish chip. I wished for the same thing every time.

I wished for my mum to be healed.

Now even if you had asked me then, I would have said I didn’t really believe in wishes… but I couldn’t not try. Not if there was the faintest chance my wish would come true.

For a lot of us (even if it’s subconsciously) we think the same thing about praying for healing.

We can’t not try.

As I got older I begun to feel that ‘wishing’ was wrong, but superstitiously couldn’t stop, and so instead began to pray each time I crunched a wish chip. It was the same prayer every time.

I prayed for my mum to be healed.

It’s a prayer and a wish that has not yet been answered in any shape or form.


Prayer as Watchers

‘My thoughts and prayers are with you’

‘I’ll be praying for you’

‘Let me pray for healing’

‘Have faith, I’ve prayed’

As Watchers we have all probably encountered (or been the direct recipient of) the above sentiments. Perhaps at times we’ve appreciated them, and other times we have not. I know I’ve certainly growled at a fair few.

The topic of prayer and healing is sensitive. To treat it lightly is to deny the reality that so many hopes and dreams hang on the outcome. It can be painful to discuss – and yet needs to be. Prayer and healing, is, I believe, another one of those huge white elephants squatting in Watcher’s bedrooms. You know, the ones we don’t like talking about.

What is prayer?

From here on out, any time I talk about prayer, it will be in relation to Christianity. Many religions pray, as do non-religious people. But the Bible defines prayer as:

The way in which a human being can have a conversation with God. It is described and required by God.  It is an essential part of the Christian faith, and (post-cross) it is offered in Jesus’ name. These are the Bible’s teachings on prayer. (cf. ECU bk on prayer)

Praise, thanks, repentance and ‘just talking’ are often described as important parts of Prayer – but this post is only going to be about prayer as a petition (or plea).

I’m not going to go into details (they are easy enough to find) but from the numerous examples in the Bible, we see that:

  • Anyone can pray
  • About all things
  • And God says He will hear
  • And God says He will respond

To give ourselves an idea of what we are grappling with in this post, here is an example of prayer which we have all either heard, uttered, or at the very least can imagine:

‘Dear God, please heal my brother from his sickness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.’

Why do we like prayer?

I think we all can admit that on some level we like (the idea of) prayer. But why?

  1. Prayer feels like a magic wand (or a wish chip)

When the doctors have given up and medicine isn’t working, prayer can give us a hope that perhaps there’s still a chance for healing. Perhaps there’s another way, outside of this world. Perhaps wishes still come true and miracles happen. Perhaps there’s a happy ending in sight, even now, for ourselves and our Loved Ones.

  1. Guess what? That wand needs to be waved!

Often, as Watchers we cannot do a single thing. We can’t heal our Loved One, we can’t even lessen their pain. Sometimes doctors can do more than we can, and that hurts. Prayer is something physical, something constructive, that we can do no matter the situation. It enables us to feel less helpless. Similarly, prayer is something others can do to demonstrate their love for us and for our Loved Ones.

  1. We can talk about waving that wand

When our Loved One tells us their bad news, or lays out to us the trials of their day, there are often no words of encouragement to offer. Their situation is bleak. We dare not give them false encouragements. Yet we can promise to pray for them, and we can pray with them. It is a response, and it’s a better one than most, and possibly least painful.

Why do we hate prayer?

Then again, there’s the flipside. As much as we like prayer as Watchers, I think perhaps we can all admit that sometimes the idea of prayer hurts. It frustrates us and we do not like it at all.

  1. Magic wands aren’t fool-proof.

I think this is the number one issue us Watchers have with prayer. We pray and our Loved Ones are not healed. We turn to God day in and day out and nothing happens. We begin to question. Does the fault lie with ourselves or with God? Is He ignoring us or are we simply not praying hard enough or having enough faith?

  1. Magic wands are silly

I felt silly sharing my wish chip story. Likewise, prayer is often difficult to talk about. Voiced out loud it seems like such an abstract, elusive, wishy-washy thing. We want to whisper ‘I’ll pray for you’ – not shout it across the sports field. In one sense I think that’s because Prayer is a sacred thing. But our bashfulness also comes from the fact that prayer often feels like something that ‘a modern person does not do’. It seems like a quaint ritual or a last resort measure (as though admitting to praying means we are weak). We can’t hold Prayer in two hands, and so it seems a bit silly.

  1. Magic wands are difficult to talk about

Even as children we tend to whisper when we talk about magic. Is that because we’re excited, or because we sense that it is something a bit mysterious, a bit difficult to put into the cadences of a normal conversation? It’s difficult to hold a conversation about belief in magic as adults… often it is just as difficult to talk about prayer. We don’t know how to respond when someone says they will pray for healing (Um.. thanks? I mean, I have already tried, but you may as well give it another go.). Similarly we often don’t know how to pray for healing ourselves. It seems a bit pretentious on one hand (God! Heal me!) and pointless on the other (God? Heal me?). It might even seem like a ‘cop out response to sickness.

A final question

But friend, we need to make a decision… will we pray? Will we accept prayer? It is a very dangerous thing to play around with a magic wand – any one seen Fantasia 2ooo? – and likewise if we accept what the Bible says about prayer (see above) it is a very dangerous thing to play around with. The next post will look deeper into the topic, but we need to ask ourselves a few questions first. Will we take prayer seriously? Are we willing to lay aside our frustrations and misconceptions and look into this?

// What do you find difficult about prayer? Do you find it easy to talk about or admit to? How do you address that?

Come join the conversation!







Author: Emily J. M.

Hi, I'm Emily. Two of my closest family members struggle with chronic illness, and I watch them. That's hard, and so I write about life as a 'Watcher', what it looks like to support them and find Hope.

3 thoughts on “Why prayer is a problem”

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