All my prayers are usually short and self-centered. Often I’ve viewed God as a genie. You wish, and He grants. It’s a view that has stunted my growth in God for the longest time, among many other things.
I often struggle with why I call myself a Christian. I feel that any person nursing a serious cursing habit, a pornography addiction, and (gasp) a strong leaning towards Darwin’s theory of natural selection, doesn’t deserve to be a Christian. I think myself naturally unworthy to be of Christ. It’s pretty straightforward. Christ, naturally, is righteous. I am of nature, therefore, not righteous. Hence, why should I even bother to proclaim myself a “Christian”, a follower of Christ, and strive to obey His teachings if I can never be like Him? It’s a hopeless exercise in frustration. So at time came that I quit reading my Bible, I quit listening in church, and I quit generally thinking Christian thoughts.
Interestingly, throughout these struggles however, I never stopped praying. Whenever I sinned, I found that God’s presence in my thoughts grew stronger. Whenever I struggled with schoolwork or addictions, my conversations with Him became more pointed. More so, even, than when I did anything I considered “good” or “righteous.” It baffled me. Of all the things I abandoned in my frustration at trying to be found “worthy”, the spiritual discipline I maintained was perhaps the one thing that was (from my perspective) the easiest to abandon.
I found prayer the most expendable of all the virtues taught in Sunday School. You thanked God for giving you things. You asked God for more things in return for thanking Him for giving you things you asked for. That’s it. Inversely, when you distance yourself from God, you stop thanking Him. You stop asking Him for things because you feel there’s no other way but to work for it yourself. Hence, to distance yourself from God, you needed only to stop relying on Him, and so you stop praying entirely.
And yet contrary to frustration leading to self-initiated distance from God, I actually found myself praying more. I found myself asking for reasons as to why I am who I am, and why He is who He is. Prayer, slowly, turned from an exercise of wishes to a search for meaning in what I do and who God is in my life. It’s been surprising and not surprising. A friend of mine once shared to me that perhaps the best form of prayer is that of complete and utter honesty with God. And many times, “God, why?” is often the most honest I can get with Him, as opposed to these supposed “right” notions of Bible-reading and church-going. There are advantages to these things, of course, but I could not see it then.
The only thing that kept me spiritually sane in times of frustration is this: God not simply righteous and God not simply intolerant of sin (though both are true), but rather God wrought most personably by John 3:16 – He was sent, He is Son, and He is Savior, rather than a high-and-mighty-unapproachable king. Whoever believes in Him shall not perish, as the verse goes.
I know it’s not a new thing – that’s the whole point of Jesus Christ after all. But this is what prayer taught me, through the exercise of constant submitting, questioning, confessing, seeking, petitioning – prayer unearthed to me the Person of Jesus Christ. And this rediscovered Christ, this true God I have, is not just some genie I wrangle out wishes from, or some distant, haughty guru that I must prove myself worthy to associate with, but rather this Servant-King. He guides and leads, as He decrees and rules. He is willing to listen to you, and asks that you listen back. That’s how prayer has been for me: a coping mechanism, an agonizing and slow ascent from despair. Prayer, or at least the willingness to relate honestly with God, is to strip away my pretenses of Him. It is a bond stronger than any other trials or sin I face. Stronger, I suppose, than all the world’s.
Writer’s Bio: Jedd Ong is from this Earth, but not of it. Words give form to his God-filled, godless world.
View his works at http://hellopoetry.com/jedd-ong