Praying for stupid things.

by K.W. Leslie, 31 March

I realize the title of this piece is gonna bug some people: “There’s no such thing as praying for stupid things! People can pray for anything and everything! People should pray for anything and everything! Stop discouraging Christians from prayer!” And so on.

I don’t wanna discourage Christians from prayer. We should all pray, and we should all pray more; most of us honestly don’t pray enough.

But yes there are stupid prayer requests. Come on.

No I don’t mean praying for ordinary stuff, like for the traffic light to change, or for the spaghetti to not overboil, or for your basketball team to do their best. God’s cool with such prayers. They may seem small and petty and irrelevant to pagans, but only because they don’t care about the little things in our daily lives. God does.

No; it’s more like when you’re praying for your basketball team, you happen to pray for the violent death of their rivals. Now we’re getting stupid.

Stupid is a synonym for foolish. When we’re being stupid, we’re clearly not thinking, not using our brains, not being wise, not even pursuing wisdom. We’re following our guts, or following the crowd, or following our flesh. If “Your will be done” is in any way part of this prayer (as it should be), it’ll immediately cancel out our stupid prayer request. ’Cause God’s obviously gonna tell us no.

But often we don’t know God well enough to realize this. So we’ll keep right on making these stupid prayer requests… and wonder why our prayers never seem to work. Well duh.

James 4.3 KWL
You ask, yet don’t receive because you ask for evil!—so you might spend it on your hedonism.

If we’re continually getting “No” answers from God, often this is exactly why. We’re asking for stuff that we think will satisfy us, or comfort us, or make us happy. They won’t. They might harm us or others. God knows this. So he’s kindly telling us no.

But like a child who can’t fathom why Mommy won’t allow her to eat her own bodyweight in cookies, we’re confused and frustrated: Didn’t Jesus promise us God would give us anything we want? So what’s the holdup?Gimme cookie!

The holdup is we’re still praying for stupid things. We need to grow up.

Obvious stupidity, and subtle stupidity.

We all pray for stupid things from time to time. Yep, I do it too. It’s because I too am not using my head; I’m irritated, so I’m rattling off some angry prayer and probably saying a few things I shouldn’t. For those things, God is rightly, wisely denying my requests. And rebuking me a little.

Luke 9.54-55 KWL
54 Seeing this, the students James and John said, “Master, with your permission,
can we call fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”
55 Jesus turned round to rebuke them.

’Cause sometimes I’m no wiser than his immature students in the gospels.

But I do know better than to expect God to smite my enemies like James and John wanted. He wants to save my enemies; he wants me to love my enemies; I know all this stuff already, and need to snap out of it and be like Jesus. We all have low points where we know better, and need to adjust our attitudes or change our behavior. That’s what I mean by obvious stupidity: We know we’re not being wise, and not praying right. Let’s do better.

The subtle stuff is when we think we are doing better… but if we stopped a second to think things through, we’d realize no we’re not.

Most imprecatory prayers are wholly inappropriate: We need to pray for evil to stop, but we mistakenly attack individuals. Most prayers for wealth and prosperity are because deep down we trust riches to be our safety net, not so much God. Often we need to pray for causes instead of effects: Yeah, we want God’s blessings on ourselves and our land, but how we arrive at those blessings needs to come through moral, ethical means; not by cutting government programs for the needy, raising taxes, raiding companies, nor exploiting workers.

Most prayers for our life and circumstances to change might be valid requests, but there’s an awful lot we can do to change these things, and if we used commonsense instead of trying to wish things into being, we’d actually get somewhere. No, I’m not saying “God helps those who help themselves”: God helps those who follow him, and any activity on our part needs to submit to his will. But often God’s “no” is really “I’m not gonna do that, you are.” Followed by our usual Moses-style or Gideon-style whining that we can’t… but yeah, we totally can. Especially when God’s empowering us.

Too often, prayers are emotional experiences instead of thoughtful experiences. We’re meant to love God with all our minds as well, so let’s stop slobbering all over God and deal with him as the rational, thinking being he is. Get serious about those prayer requests. Ask wisely.