Monday, September 27, 2010

I'm Going to Smear Lime Jello on My Elbows for You

I do so love a rambling semidefense of prayer as actually doing something . . . or something. You'll see what I mean.

The message came in a flurry of emails on a day that was no busier than usual. It was bad news. An old friend was letting me know that her long-time babysitter had just been diagnosed with colon cancer and was going into the hospital soon for surgery.

"Prayers!" I typed. "I'll keep her in our prayers." What else do you say? How else do you respond to really bad new? The thing is: do you really mean it, and are you really going to do it?

How about, "I'm sorry" or "I'll keep her in my thoughts"? Or, if you really actually want to do something, what about a fundraiser to pay for medical bills and missed wages, or cooking freezer-ready meals for her and her family or a gift certificate for a maid service or taking up a collection to pay for rides to and from treatment or, you know, actually fucking doing something? Oh, right, that takes effort. Got it.

So, anyway, the author managed to forget even doing the nothing that is praying.

I don't believe for a minute that God didn't get the message when I typed my email "Prayers!" and anyway, if God cared about this lovely faith-filled woman, he would be on top of it. (Leave alone for a minute the whys of her illness.)

Um, no. How about you're going to have to explain why god will answer a prayer to cure a disease he allowed a person to have in the first place. Otherwise, you've involved me in the old Steve Martin skit in which he explains that the way to be a millionaire is to get a million dollars.

But I needed to say that prayer for me as much as for her.

She has cancer, dude. Stop thinking about yourself. How selfish can you be? (Apparently, that selfish.)

Praying for others is at the heart of prayer. As has been often pointed out, the Lord's Prayer is in the first-person plural, not singular. Praying -- and I don't think I'm any better at it than anybody else -- is a joint effort. Faith is about compassion, and how compassionate can you be if you don't pray for others?

Oh, I see. I actually do things for the suffering people in my life, but because I don't talk to myself about it, I'm a sociopath.

Do I know how it works? Haven't a clue. Do I believe it works? Of course I do or I wouldn't prevail.

Ah, the unexamined life. Also, the word you are looking for is not "prevail". Prevail means to win. You mean "persevere".

There have been times when I've depended on it. Scared out of my wits in a hospital room before open-heart surgery, I took comfort in a print-out of emails from friends and family promising their prayers. And when I couldn't pray at all, I was grateful to a pair of old friends who called and prayed some sense into me on the other end of the line. What I couldn't do, they could do for me.

I'm not sure how one prays sense into someone, but fine. If prayer comforted you prior to major surgery, go for it. I would never take that comfort from you, surgery is terrifying. In fact, were you a friend of mine, I would lie and tell you I prayed for you. I would also smear lime jello on my elbows if that's what would make you feel better. However, don't tell me the heart of compassion is prayer.

There's a lot of goodness in this broken world, and prayer feels like a way of shaking it loose. I have no problems praying for dear friends who think it's a bunch of malarkey. They love me and have to accept that this is some endearing idiosyncrasy of mine like making dopey toasts or breaking into song. When you pray for someone, you learn to love them, and you think of them all day long.

So, without the prayer, I cannot "learn to love"? Get over yourself. Also, hatred also makes you think of people all day long. As does obsession.

That babysitter is getting out of the hospital soon and going into rehabilitation. I've been checking in and am attuned because she's on my badly maintained list. "You're so nice to ask," my friend says. But I'm not being nice. I'm doing what I think is essential and will keep trying. "You're in my prayers" is a powerful thing to say and even more powerful when you show how you mean it.

That babysitter could use an awful lot of things. She could use help cleaning her house. She could use a big platter of baked ziti. (I'm Italian. We believe in the healing power of pasta. For everything.) She could use a million things that don't involve you making yourself feel better about your inaction.

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  1. See, this is where traditional Jewish prayers actually make sense to me, from a logical perspective. Ever been to a Jewish wedding or shiva ceremony? The cornerstone prayers of both these events say NOTHING about marriage, death, the married people, or the dead people. They're all God this, God that, God, God, God, God is so great, God is so powerful, seven blessings upon God, God, God, God.

    Which makes sense if your God is the God of the Old Testament. I mean, I'd want to kiss his ass to save mine, right?

  2. If I believed in the God of the Old Testament, I'd never stop praying. The Flood, the Ten Plagues, the 40 years in a desert smaller than Pennsylvania? You'd better believe I'd kiss ass!

  3. It's especially funny when they pray that the doctors do their jobs, and when they do, they attribute it to the intervention of their god through the doctors. Maybe he was also intervening in your prayer, thereby praying through you to himself. It sounds like something the bible god would do, old or new testament.

  4. When you pray for someone, you learn to love them, and you think of them all day long.

    That's nice.


    NEW GAME WITH YOU LITTLE F*CKERS - SPEAK N DIE. Come see the latest DM videos for your viewing pleasure!


    And the Pope is 100% correct: The Nazis and the atheists both wish to ABOLISH FAITH....


    hawking is WRONG

    science cannot explain NOTHING!



  6. Back when I used to read the Bible, I found an interesting chapter in EcclesiastICUS (not EcclesiastES) that got chopped from the King James version. (It's in the Catholic version). It includes:
    "Honor the physician with the honor due him, according to your need of him, for the Lord created him; for healing comes from the Most High...The Lord created medicines from the earth, and a sensible man will not despise them...By them he heals and takes away pain; the pharmacist makes of them a compound...And give the physician his place, for the Lord created him; let him not leave you, for there is need of him."

    But, at some point, that entire book was excised, because we all know it's really only the prayin' that heals up folks.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Hey, DM's self-censoring again.

    My god. The AI's become self-aware. It doesn't want to live!

  9. quasar I'm censoring what I am going to do to you....

  10. DM, why bother censoring? you've threatened most of the people here - obviously, being in Canada, you think aggravated assult doesn't apply to you [HINT: it does]

    Quasar - for once, i'm GLAD something got censored from the Bible. most doctors ALREADY have ginormous egos bigger than Alaska. if they knew that "God said" to honor them... *shudder*


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