Saturday, July 12, 2008

Prayers, rewritten

That scene from Firefly of River rewriting the Bible is one of the things making me think about the things people say to God - prayer - and what it really means. So let's take an example of a simple prayer that any random American Christian might make any day of the week, say at a casual Bible study (I've heard hundreds and made dozens like it over the years):

Dear Lord, we praise You and thank You for this day, for our health and for this fellowship. Thank You for guiding us all here safely tonight, and we pray that You will bless us and see us safe back to our homes again.

Lord, please open our hearts so that we may hear Your message here tonight, and go out to be a beacon for Your Holy Word.

We pray for Lia Ashton, Father, and ask that You bring her up out of bankruptcy. Bless her and her family, and lead her to a good job.

Lord, we also pray for Tim Stife tonight. We ask that you will lay Your healing hands on Him and bring him back to good health, if it by Your will.

All this we ask in Jesus' name, Amen.
Wow, that was kind of creepy...I haven't composed a prayer in years now. We're omitting some fairly standard pleas to guide the president, protect military personnel in war zones, and generally save the nation. We gotta start small here.

  • "Dear Lord, we praise You" - This never makes sense to me. I praise my dog, but I never say "I praise you, Rover". You say "good dog, Rover". So instead of constantly SAYING "Praise God", shouldn't you stick with "God is great, God is cool, thanks're the best!!" I know they do that too, but "praise God!" is SO common. Drives me nuts.

  • "thank You for this and for this fellowship" -Thanks for now - I guess you're just happy to exist, sure-sure - but is God DIRECTLY responsible for your current health? Shouldn't He get the blame when you're sick? "Fuck, Lord, why did you have to give me the runs today?? You're a SUCKY God." As for fellowship: Thanks for an excuse to hang out with my friends, because Lord knows (ha!) we couldn't have gone bowling or something.

  • Getting there and back - Same thing as praying for health. If He's responsible for your safety minute to minute, He should get some pretty pissy prayers when shit goes wrong. And if not, you're just saying you HOPE no one flips their Hummer on the way back.

  • blessings - Praying for the Lord to "bless us" seems like a cheat to me, like rubbing a rabbit's foot every morning on general principles. Bless us. Just whatever good shit pops into Your mind today, you can give that to me (instead of, say, some welfare mother or a starving African kid with HIV).

  • "open our hearts" - I can't tell you HOW many times I've heard that, "Lord, open our hearts". They're mildly insinuating that if you don't buy whatever is thrown out there, you have failed God, or at least you're not relying on God, which is terrible. You WILL be assimalated. And you gotta be a beacon, or at least a light that's NOT under a bushel (Matthew 5:15, Mark 4:21, Luke 11:33)

  • Praying to change people's lives / bless them in specific ways - This is one of SurferJesus' pet peeves (if you can call it that). So, Lia has bad luck (WTF, God?) or mishandles her finances, and she's facing bankruptcy / repo / foreclosure. The Lord's gonna fix it. How? By getting her a good job. How? Well, Lia goes out and applies to a zillion places plus four temp agencies, goes on 7 interviews and studies her ass off to pass 3 different kinds of exams. And then she gets a job offer. What, exactly, did God do? If, say, he nudged somebody (I call messing with free will!) to give Lia the job over another candidate, He's deliberately fucking up THAT guy's life.

  • healing hands - Why do we have to ask for healing hands in the first place? Why are you waiting till we ask for you to do something about it? The guy had a fuckin heart attack. "Healing hands" can only mean (a) You miraculously cure the guy of a heart condition and blocked arteries (I call magic!), or (b) You let nature and modern medicine take their course (I call shenanigans!).

    This brings me to another point: Petition prayer. Somewhere it's written (no, it's not) that the more people you get to pray for a certain something, the more likely God is to pay attention, or change his mind. Or maybe there's a scale for certain things: 10 prayers equals a raise, 1,000 gets you healed from the flu, and with 10,000 you can pick between the goldfish or the giant Snoopy doll. Is prayer currency?

  • "if it be Your will" - Man oh man. If it was his fucking WILL, he would've done it then, wouldn't he? You're just saying "Do what you wanna do,'re smarter than us. Having said that, we'd REALLY like blah blah blah..."

  • "All this we ask in Jesus' name, Amen." - This, now...this is the magic password that opens the vault of divine favors (John 14:13, John 16:23-24). "God, gimme a pony. I ask in Jesus' name, Amen."

If it's any solace (and it kind of isn''re still talking to your invisible friend and expecting a reaction), some Christians are preaching against this sort of thing too. Well, that's certainly a start.

So let's finish this off with the above prayer translated from Christian to Normal:):
Dear God, you're totally cool. Thanks for making us and not making us sick and giving us an excuse to hang out together. I'm glad I got here without crashing; I sure hope I get home without crashing too.

Everybody better listen up tonight, because we're talking about the Bible and we SUCK if we don't believe in that. Oh yeah, and we need to tell people about what we learned or they'll go to hell and it's partly our fault. We suck.

As we're sure You know, Lia blew her money on weight-loss products and road trips, and then got fired for telling the customers about her last pap smear. She needs a job, so, like, posess some hiring manager or something and hire her. And do something nice for her family, because we thought about it and asked nicely.

Tim's bypass was okay, but miracles are cooler, so get on that too. Please. I mean, if you feel like it and were gonna do it anyway. Why am I asking?

And for all of the above, the password is "Billy Crystal sent me". Giggity.

Mal: (kneeling at altar, in disguise) "Dear Buddha: please bring me a pony, and a plastic rocket-"

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