A faraway friend asked me for my prayers this weekend. Prayers for humanity, for those suffering right now in light of recent tragedies. She told me that she does not believe in God, how could she believe in a God who allows such atrocities to occur? But that she believes in the power of prayer, or maybe the collective positive thought, if I understood her correctly.
I have received similar messages and requests over the years, despite the fact that on this blog I typically choose to speak mainly of my family and those things that we enjoy doing. My faith is always just beneath the surface though, an undercurrent of sorts, and ultimately it is the driving force behind my life. And while I know that many of you (most?) don’t share my beliefs, and maybe think I am kind of nuts (I won’t argue), you tolerate me despite our differences. And sometimes you ask me to pray for you.
While I do have strong feelings and beliefs on many topics, I am not the sort that believes strongly, and then requires others around me to agree, to believe the same. That isn’t in my nature. For years I have felt that I wanted my blog to be a space for anyone, because in my real life, that is how I live. I don’t limit my relationships to those who live and believe as I do. I don’t live in isolation. This doesn’t change the nature of what I believe. It just means that I am secure in my faith, and I am okay with you whether we agree or not.
But today I am feeling led to share maybe a bit more than I typically do, maybe if only for the friend who reached out and the possibility that there are others who think the same, but haven’t taken the next step to write, to ask.
I am an intelligent person, or at least there is evidence to suggest that I was before I had children. I came to my place of religious belief after many years of struggle and questioning. While I spent hours upon hours reading and researching before I landed in the Catholic Church, I am not a theologian, and I tend to think in simple terms. I want to try to answer the question of suffering in the simplest terms I know. Because I once asked those same questions, and no one could answer me.
I believe in God, God the creator, who created us out of love, for relationship with him. But he doesn’t force this relationship on us. He gives us a choice; this is our free will. He asks us to choose him.
Think of someone whom you love, and who loves you. And now imagine that you were able to control people, to force them to love you. Is that the sort of love that you would desire? Would that even be love?
“It is never God’s will for anyone of us to suffer, though it is his will that we be free to choose him. And unfortunately, many do not choose Him.” -Fr. Rooney, my pastor (loosely quoted) And this is the age-old story, Adam and Eve, the garden, the apple. There are those who of their own free will choose evil over good. And that is why there is suffering. Humans have chosen evil over good for centuries, and we suffer the consequences.
So again I am asked, “I don’t believe, will you pray?” And of course I answer, “Yes.” But my prayers carry no more strength than yours. Your prayers are needed as well. Ask yourself, “What can I do about suffering and evil in the world?” Yes, you can live your life doing good, choosing good over evil. You can pray for the victims. But it is quite possible that the most important thing that anyone of us can do in the face of evil is to pray for the perpetrators. To pray for their hearts to be turned. For most of us, this is all we can do. So whether you believe in God or not, I ask you to pray. Pray everyday. Pray for those who wish harm upon humanity.
And maybe that sounds silly. I mean, how can you pray if you don’t believe? Why bother? Well, how can you ask me to pray if you don’t believe? Why not take a chance? Maybe you’ll feel a little like I do when I realize I am talking aloud to myself at the grocery store. But, who cares? Because what if there is a God waiting to hear from you? What if your prayers can help change the world? It’s worth the risk that you may just be talking to yourself. Because it’s quite possible that you are wrong. That there is indeed a God who loves the world, who truly wants good for us, despite all the suffering we see.
I am not the world’s most amazing praying Christian. I am chasing after children and schedules and meals and laundry and I often fall into bed and realize I haven’t spoken an intentional word of prayer all day with the exception of praying before meals. So I am going to start writing them down. I will write my prayers down. The friend pregnant with a child who won’t survive. Another who recently lost his wife to cancer. France, Lebanon, Syria. And maybe you will join me? Don’t want to say it out loud? Too strange when you don’t believe anyone is listening? Let’s write our prayers down together. That way we won’t forget. And if I am right about God, he will know, he will hear.