Prayer, you might be doing it wrong

My words have come rough this week. Like the time I learned to drive a stick-shift. All of you in that little stick shift cult can roll your eyes collectively, but my membership got rejected. The lurching and the whiplash and the kill of the engine letting me know I was doing it wrong. Remember the scene in Mr. Mom Michael Keaton takes the kids to school and the they tell him he’s doing it wrong? That’s me! Doing the stick shift wrong, doing dinner wrong, doing this blog wrong. I hate don’t like being wrong. And, I don’t like new (unless it involves shopping).

I’ve been a part of several conversations recently about being careful what you pray for. The idea being that God might give you what you ask for and if you ask for the wrong thing, you’ll have to live with the consequences, so you better have all your little duckies in a row and ready to go before you roll out that prayer. As if God can be manipulated by our spreadsheet of pros and cons. I’m grateful that I chucked that theology a long time ago. There was no way for me to anticipate the contention that would take place in my soul when I asked God to make my words bigger.

New finds me with my fists clenched and raised as I dance around the ring. I waste a few rounds in a self-indulgent cry. Then I whine about injustice sieging my life. Utter ridiculousness. Finally, I give in and begin to adjust my attitude and expectations. This is how I roll and the ones standing in my corner get it and are gracious to give me space.

I’m beginning to recognize that this is the rhythm of my soul. It’s becoming clear that the development of this blog is no different and while it’s been a dream for some time, the reality of a new challenge is setting in. As I’ve wrestled with words this week, some words that used to dictate my choices have been chanting from the stands. Making the right choice used to be my plumb line. The goal was to never be wrong under any circumstance.

The motivation behind my prayer for rightness was to escape any kind of pain. Wrong choices bring turmoil and guilt and struggle. Wrong brings with it a billboard with lights that flash You’re Doing It Wrong! And while it’s true that negative consequences can follow wrong choices, I don’t want to let the fear of doing it wrong paralyze me and keep me from moving forward.

A life-sized red exclamation point fires at the base of my neck when I hear talk about wanting to ask God for the right thing. As if someone breathed the name of Hitler in the same sentence as God. You know how Brick on The Middle whispers the words he just said aloud? Just like that. God, (lowers his head and whispers) h-i-t-l-e-r.

Listed in the fine print of the right prayer, is the desire to not be wrong and an unhealthy fear that God can’t wait to point out our error. The right choice has become a god for me at times. I’ve worshiped the rightness rather than the Righteous. When we worship the rightness, the enemy leads a parade to his favorite corner in town.

‘Be careful what you pray for’ and ‘make the right choice’ collide at the intersection of fear and religion. You’ll find a lot of people hanging around that corner, some call themselves believers, others spectators, some atheists or agnostics. I spent years on this corner and still fight with my GPS about returning sometimes. The intersection of fear and religion is paralyzing. On that corner, we become stone figures, we lose the ability to think clearly, to move and interact. We know we need to cross the street and continue on the journey, but the corner of fear and religion exists to lock us down. It’s the enemy’s hang out and he holds vigil standing with his placards of doubt chanting whatever phrase it takes to hold our attention.

Sara Groves is one of my favorite artists. An old song of her played in the background this week. You may not know this, but God is the DJ in the shuffle of my Ipod. One line from her song stood out to me. The print size doubled and the words were bold, like a power-point presentation where a phrase moves to the front. Please tell me you can see words in your head too.

“Why do I pray, do I pray to do the right thing?” sara groves

My soul has been shadow boxing this week. Fists clinched dancing around like a fool. I even had my lower lip sporting advertisements for a little birdie to sit on it. I wanted answers, direction for this blog, I want to get it right. So that I don’t do it wrong and make a fool of myself out here in Inter-landia. I was chasing the rightness over the righteous. God does not care about my rightness. He cares deeply that I sit with him in honesty about my desires and my mountains of insecurities and my motives and aversion to being wrong.

God wants us to seek him, not his answers.

Joseph Alessio
Joseph Alessio

It’s true that by seeking him we often find the answers to our prayers, but what if we don’t? Will we continue to sit with him when there’s silence? Will we step out and risk a wrong choice in the pursuit of a right God, or will we find ourselves frozen at the corner of fear and religion.

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I'm a forty something women managing a busy family, working as a hair designer and trying to use my big-girl words.

5 thoughts on “Prayer, you might be doing it wrong”

  1. Amen! Thank you for the reminder. As my mind swirls with so much this week – sadness/injustice/confusion – I am so glad that I don’t have to have it all figured out!


  2. I will ruminate on these truths all day. Thanks for helping me get started in the right direction by avoiding dangerous intersections!


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