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Monday, January 14, 2013

Can Prayer Hurt People?

That's the question on my mind tonight (technically past midnight so it's morning). It's not one I ask lightly.

It's late and I should be in bed. However, this question begs to be asked and I need to ask it.

Can prayer hurt people?

There are a lot of things in my life I'm consistent on. My favorite color, my hatred of ketchup, and my obsession with Star Trek to name a few. One of the other things I'm consistent on is prayer.

This is not to say I'm a bible thumping, all-American, Christian. I am most certainly not. Too often I find myself committing the same sins and asking for forgiveness, as one does. Sometimes I feel like it's all a wash really ... like the act of prayer doesn't really matter.

And then, prayer shows itself to actually matter. So this question shouldn't be interpreted as "Does prayer work?" but rather as "Can prayer harm as much as it helps?"

Because, if this past day was any indication, it certainly seems like prayer really backfired. Again, consistent as I am, I pray consistently about the same things night after night. Some nights I forget, I admit that, but most nights I don't.

I first ask for forgiveness of my sins, then proceed to ask for health and safety of my family members. I don't mean just blood family, I'm talking all my families. I then ask, specifically, for things for specific family members. I don't imagine this is too uncommon an approach.

Usually, the prayer for those specific family members relates to them being able to get done what they need to (work, school, ect) in a way that leaves them not too stressed out and in a good mind set. I want them to have a good day.

But today my usual prayer has seemingly backfired. It's not the first time but it was bad today. For one family member, his work looks to be ready to jettison him. For another, his school work is stressing him out (among other things).

I want to help, desperately so. I want to be able to say "I'll pray for you" but that seems like lobbing a live grenade at someone at this point. Is my prayer really helpful? Does it make a POSITIVE difference in other's lives?

I don't know. The power of prayer is something constantly beat into your head when you go to church (at least for Baptists anyway). It's always the first thing people ask of you in any situation. It's almost become cliche and I'm not sure a lot of people mean it when they agree to pray.

I know for a fact that a lot of the time, I don't. Call me what you will, but that's the honest truth. People will ask and I will say yes, but if I don't do it soon I'll forget ... my prayers will take their usual form and that request will go unanswered.

I'm selfish and I want to reserve my prayers for the people I love in my life. My family. My friends. My people. If prayer is so powerful, spreading it out has to dilute it, doesn't it? That's my line of thinking anyway ... probably wrong.

But if prayer is that powerful than can't that power be used negatively just as easily as positively?

I know the common answer here is something along the lines of "God is good and would never do that" and I'm not going to completely disagree with that.

But I wonder if it's not God's end of the line that messes things up. I wonder if it's the person who prays (me in this case) as opposed to the person who answers the prayers (God, duh).

As I've admitted many times before, I'm not exactly the most spiritual person. God and I are at an impasse, clearly. I don't know where I'm going or what I'm doing, not really, and only in the last month or so has the fog slowly begun to lift on that subject ... maybe.

So I wonder if someone who's going through what I'm going through at the moment should pray for others at all. Am I doing them more harm than good? Do my issues with God affect my prayers for others?

This I wonder and have wondered on a lot today. I prayed, specifically, for things yesterday night. Today I got exactly the opposite of what I prayed for.

Something's got to be wrong there and it has to be wrong on my end, doesn't it?

And that brings me back to the main thought here. Can prayer hurt people?

I want to help. I don't want to sit here and do nothing. I hate that, I hate that with a passion, and it frustrates me to say "Sorry, can't help" when there has to be SOMETHING I can do. Usually that something is prayer but I feel like I should put a pause on that ... if it's truly as damning as it appears to be, then I'll be doing people a favor by not praying for them.

But then such inaction means I'll be doing nothing to help and that will frustrate me to no end.


Thanks for listening folks. I'm going to bed.

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