Monday, February 25, 2013

Questioning the Blessings

As I was watching an Oprah rerun this weekend I realized how many people believe in or want to believe in angels and God.

The featured woman told a story of how she was walking home alone one night and heard a terrifying noise. She prayed for help and was physically lifted by an angel and carried to the safety of a bridge many feet away. She was spared because she asked God to help her, and he responded by sending one of his angels.

I turned off the television because this got me thinking.

Not because I did not believe her, not because her story was long winded, but because of the idea there is an omnipotent being somewhere choosing who to listen to--and more importantly--who to ignore.

I realized it bothers me when people say they are blessed, and until now I never could not figure out why. I WANT to be blessed, and I want you to be blessed too--but then that leaves the people who are in dire straights, hurting for money, sick, injured, lonely, sad, or worse. Are they the UNblessed? The forgotten? They may believe more than you or I, but all the praying in the world does nothing. It almost felt to me that the "blessed" were bragging and leaving the others that were not lucky enough to be smiled upon by the benign and loving father above out in the cold. Why were they the chosen ones?

So what does that mean?  And what about praying?

There have been some studies concerning prayer and the results are inconclusive.  The patients in the study listed here had less stress before a heart procedure if they were part of the imagery/music group. The group that was prayed over fared about the same as the group that was not. In a similar study the prayed for group had a slightly higher rate of complications after a medical procedure (52%) compared to the group that was not prayed for (51%).

Even the Pope has his moments of doubt:

He said: "Sometimes it feels like God has been sleeping." Interesting.

Prayer seems to be an unnecessary process if we are to believe in the entity we are praying to. We are taught that God is all-knowing and loving and that prayer will help when you are hurting. But the caveat--it will only work if it is God's will anyway.

I am confused.

Admittedly I am more of an atheist than believer, but this does not mean I cannot be swayed. The gorgeous world around me, the stunning sunsets and beautiful babies born everyday do not mean to me that there is a God--and yet I cannot say 100% there is not.

Many of my prayers and prayers of others I know have been ignored or disregarded, so I eventually stopped praying. I am not wicked and I try and do my best to help others and be a good person--nothing has changed since I have ceased praying other than I feel like less of a hypocrite.

I have many things to be thankful for including an inquisitive mind that can't process a subject simply by faith.

I would love your opinion on the subject--agree or disagree.

I would also love for you to change my mind.

Please read Day 57 from 100 UNFORTUNATE DAYS for more God questions.


Day 57

Every basement has a dark corner or room no one likes.

Maybe the whole basement is dark and scary. Spirits collect in dark and cluttered spaces. They hide and wait for you because they are stuck. Some people can see them. Some people see the long thin black wispy figures with arms 10 feet long that unfold as they slowly reach for you in the dark because you have to go down there to get something or fix a light bulb or retrieve a screwdriver. Part of you revs up and moves really quickly to get out of there because you know if you wait long enough and the arms fully unfold, they can touch you and then part of you belongs in the black corner in the basement. Then it will be very hard to be normal again. You will wake up in the middle of the night, and you won’t be able to get back to sleep because you will worry about all the things you have done wrong and how you are hurting people. You can’t get this out of your mind now and you think that maybe if you count and envision each number in your head as you say it in your mind; you can block some of the bad thoughts.

Or maybe you can pray—say the Lord’s Prayer over and over and over and God will surely be there to help you because you are saying his prayer. But it doesn’t help. God doesn’t give a fuck when you are miserable—he doesn’t care if you pray. You can pray until there is blood dripping out of your mouth and nothing will change. God is an asshole that way. Even a relatively rotten person will assist you if you are begging for help. But your thoughts will just revolve through your mind over and over until you want to take a gun like the lead in Fight Club and shoot them out of your head. Maybe someday you will, but for now, you are trying to figure why God is such a jerk and you have to live like this. You wonder why you feel forsaken—well it’s probably because you have been forsaken and you don’t know how to live in that state. Because when you are a kid somebody probably told you everything would be all right, and now you realize they lied. So you keep lying to yourself, telling yourself it’s not such a big deal, but actually it is. Because now the dark corners in your basement have started to get darker. And bigger. The arms get longer and longer and pretty soon there won’t be anywhere you can go where they can’t touch you. So you start to drink or take pills or do some other kind of drug so you can’t tell when you get touched. But now the problem is you get touched all the time, but you don’t know it.

At least now you don’t care.


  1. I guess I'm more of a believer than not, but on the other hand, I've done a lot of praying and it seemed to fall on deaf ears.

    When I was pregnant, I prayed that I would have a wonderful, beautiful baby that was good and didn't cry a lot and was healthy. I got the very thing I prayed for...but, would I have gotten the wonderful, beautiful, healthy baby anyway, regardless of the prayers? Maybe...maybe not.

    I believe there is a God, and I do hope/pray that I will go to Heaven one day, but sometimes these "lessons" we are meant to learn just end up bringing heartache, stress and discontent to our worlds. Failed love lives, money troubles and health problems...who wants that? Not me...yet, some people have one or all of those things...and when you pray and you don't get any relief, well, who gets/deserves the blame?

    Maybe if I went to church I'd win the lottery, or maybe if I prayed more, was more positive, maybe I'd have a better love life.

    You know what? Your guess is as good as mine...

    1. I know what you mean Beth and I think along the same lines. Sure some good things happen, but they probably would have anyway.
      As for blame--I got tired of being angry at the ringing silences--for me it is easier (maybe not right) to look at life a bit more scientifically.
      Thanks for stopping by!!

  2. BTW, can't recommend 100 Unfortunate Days enough...loved that book!

  3. I've felt/thought a lot of these things a lot for the past few years. Been thinking them a LOT. Then I wonder if these thoughts are stirred up by the badies creeping up from my basement. I dunno, Dude; I sometimes think it's all a bit of a mind screw and we're the ones twisting the screwdriver.

    1. I always say PROVE IT! Show me something now!


      As for the mind screw I think I can safely say I agree with that.
      Thanks for the badies image (eek).

  4. Your post intrigued me and got me wanting to comment, but at the same time, I'm terrified of doing so.

    Still, it's sort of what I've been told to do so here I am.

    God is as real to me as you are. Never seen you in my life, but I know you exist. After all... you touched my life by writing this post. In fact, He's more real because I've had an active relationship with Him for years. More than a decade now. And I've seen the touches He's made all over my life.

    I've found that many people have your doubts, and I respect people of different belief to mine, but since you asked:

    1) People completely misunderstand God. It's easy to do. Everyone does. I mean, we're conditioned to think in finite terms and God is infinite.

    2) Because people misunderstand Him, they seem to think He's a dancing monkey in existence to dance attendance on humanity's wants. He's not. He's God. We're supposed to be paying attention to what He wants first. If for no other reason, because He outranked us before we even existed.

    3) Luckily for us, He's also full of Grace. Which means that He DOES bless people. All the time. But it doesn't always work on an ask-and-be-granted basis. Odds are it will be granted. But it could take years. And IT WILL NOT BE GRANTED if for some reason the "blessing" would be bad for you.

    4) Although God loves us and forgives us our sins, we STILL have to go through the results of choices we've made. So if we get ourselves in a fine pickle, odds are He's not going to jump in and pick you out of it just because you snapped your fingers. He will, however, give you guidance. And if you got yourself well and truly stuck, He'll never desert you.

    5) God more often than not does NOT make bad things happen. People do. He won't intervene because of the fact that He gave us free will. He does, however, support and guide us when it comes to going through difficult times.

    6) When He DOES make bad things happen, He's testing you, or trying to bring you closer to Him, teaching you, or even preparing you for those blessings you mentioned.

    7) Speaking of which: Blessings often don't take the forms people want, but what they need, which is why people don't see them.

    8) Prayer should never be about what you want. It should be about talking with God. And then about what He wants. And then you can ask for what you want. But His will comes first. The idea of "praying blessings/healings/money/whatever out of GOD" goes back to the dancing monkey principle in 2).

    So what does this all come down to? That people of faith aren't in the faith for what they get out of it.

    To me, it's about the love I feel for God. It's about the fact that above all, I love knowing that there's Someone in my life who'll never betray or hurt me. Even if it sometimes feels like it.

    It's about knowing that even though people don't get it, I get to have a personal relationship with Him because of His Son. That He's about love and forgiveness and not wrath and paying off His kids so as to not pay attention to them.

    Am I blessed? Absolutely. But not because I threatened to stop believing when He refused (refuses) to give me what I want.

    Hope this helped! Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. :-)


    1. I'm gald you here even though you were scared to. I envy people who tell me they have a great relationship with God because I have never felt that way. I love to hear about the situations and how it has helped them.
      I find it interesting to hear about the personal relationships people have with God because I truly don't understand that concept. You might not get this since you already left your comment, but I would love to know what it is like. I always felt as if I was talking to a wall--silly--and the empty silence after left me cold.
      Oh yeah--we could have a BIG conversation!
      I really appreciate that you took the time to answer.

  5. Hi Penelope!
    Great post, very thought provoking. I think there is certainly a place for praying. I think the idea is a bit misconstrued mostly though. People tend to think in the spiritual world 2+2=4 and that, in my opinion, just isn't the case. Lots of folks pray for their favorite team to win and I'm pretty sure God doesn't care about that. I do think praying is part of one's faith and it is more of a reaffirmation and practice to stay strong and reconfirm your faith in good and bad times. There may be times pray changes or fixes things, miracles do happen, but this is not the norm. Praying doesn't necessarily equal results, but incorporating prayer into your faith and faith-based existence does yield results in my opinion. I could discuss for hours, but thanks again for such a great post!

    Paul R. Hewlett

  6. Thanks Paul.
    And I'm with you --this could be a never-ending discussion for me...and one of the reasons is because we will never really know! Dives me crazy. I always said I want to be one of those people that has an Oprah Ah HA! moment about God, because until them I'm going to be sitting with me fist under my chin looking up and going hmmmmmmm...
    But again--thanks for your opinion. And I have to agree that if God is there he probably doesn't care if your team wins :)
    Glad you came by!

  7. Penelope, I've not left a comment in a long while. You aren't alone. So many of us think the same way. We hear the same stuff about people praying. But churches burn down. What's up with that?

    I've decided to let God take care of God and I'll take care of me and mine. I guess it's like I've lived long enough to see life, the ups, downs, deaths of loved ones. Ghosts--which I only experience what they've done and there is no other explanation.
    I write fantasy because it's how I'd rather live if I were able to. Maybe the question should be does God really beleive in us?

  8. Wow Lorelei--I love your question.
    I'm glad you came and said you feel the same--it is crappy to feel like you should love something you feel nothing for, and watch others within a relationship.
    Like I said in the blog--inquiring minds want to know--why are some in and some out.
    So glad you came back Lorelei--missed ya.

  9. I believe there is a higher power. Do I think God chooses which prayers go unanswered? I don't know. Do I believe in miracles? Yes, I do. Do I believe the unanswered prayers are those of people who need to learn the lesson they are praying to avoid? I don't know. Do I believe in Heaven where all my family and friends, that have passed, are waiting for me to join them some day? I believe it to be true. Do I believe the story that all the animals you've had in your life are the first ones to greet you when you get to heaven? I sure hope so. Have I ever questioned the existence of God? Sure, most everyone has at some point or another. I, nor anyone else, has all the answers. Like everything, we have to wait and see. Very thought provoking Penelope. Thank you!

    1. If there is a heaven I am hoping my dogs and birds are all there along with all the people I miss SO much.
      And yes we are going to have to wait--and I am a bad waiter.
      This is one of my thing--I think of it too much because I want answers.
      Debby I think this is you--I'm glad you stopped by!

  10. This is not at all a comment on the power (or lack thereof) of prayer, but I am a statistician and can tell you that unless the sample size was huge, there is no significant difference between 51% and 52%. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either kidding themselves or has an agenda.

    That said, did either of these studies compare those who spent time in prayer while waiting for surgery to those who simply waited for surgery? I would think that, minimally, the meditative aspect of prayer (regardless of existence of God) would be beneficial.

  11. Yup Marie--the article says there is no significant difference in the percentages.
    The studies showed the results to people that were prayed for, not those who prayed for themselves.
    The studies also showed that the groups who attended music therapy groups had more of a benefit than those prayed for.
    It is a hard subject to judge.
    As for praying for yourself--I would have to look up the stats :)
    Glad you came by.
    Did not know you were a statistician!

  12. Great post Penelope...makes ya think.

    I have a real problem with the prayer thing. I hear of/see people pray in groups with the most gut wrenching, heartfelt emotion for a dying child and that child still dies. I see new (churchgoing) mothers pray for a healthy baby...but the baby is born with a heart defect. If there is a god listening to all these prayers, he's a fair weather god who picks and chooses. I don't like that god.
    Then you have the people who will come back at me with all of the excuses and fine print...god only gives you what you can handle...god knew you NEEDED that blind child...god CHOSE YOU for this. Uh-uh. In my opinion, if there was a god, our lives should be very different and there should be much less suffering in this world.
    How hurtful is it for a mother with a still born infant wrapped in a blanket in her arms as she says good-bye to be made to feel she didn't pray hard enough or long enough.
    I do believe that prayer is good. It gives those who partake focus and concentrates energy toward a goal or hope. The outcome has much to do with the OTHERS involved, the roll of the dice, and happenstance. I don't begrudge those who BELIEVE because this is their coping mechanism, their meditation, and it is in the name of goodness and kindness.

    1. You know I agree with you.
      If God is choosing who he blesses and who he ignores--I don't like it.
      But that is for me. Failed prayer has hurt ME in the past and made situations worse. It is also something not many people talk about.
      I feel you can and should have any faith you choose--or have none at all.
      Always glad when you come by.

  13. I don't believe that God interferes with our lives - I don't think he doles out blessings to those he chooses or makes bad things happen. I agree with an above poster about the free will thing - if we make a mess of our lives it's not fair to think that God is just going to come and pluck us out of it. I do not believe an angel came and plucked the woman on Oprah up. I believe in the power of prayer because I believe it gives us the strength and the hope and the faith to carry on in our sometimes shitty lives. Religion wise I happen to be a fairly decent Catholic (not perfect, but who is? And since I'm Catholic I know God will forgive me for my shortcomings, so that's comforting). I think perhaps God LET'S us suffer, but I don't believe he MAKES us suffer. And although I don't think he GAVE me three perfect children (healthwise, behavior wise they are horrible) I do feel grateful to him that I have them. I know that doesn't necessarily make sense. In a way I think God watches us in much the way that we watch the characters on Reality TV ... he might even sit there and say "wow, that's certainly a pickle they've gotten themselves into" ...

    But I think that it's the life we lead and the things we overcome ON OUR OWN that prove our worth. When I pray it's a prayer for strength ... a prayer to make the right decision or to have the strength to do the right thing, not the easy thing. But in the end, I think the strength is in me already but the prayers help me to bring it out. Because I am stronger than I think I am and the prayers help me to realize my strengths and my weaknesses and to see myself more clearly.

    I guess my point is that I don't think God is like some kind of carnival game that doles out wishes on the roll of the dice. I think he's kind of like the parent of a teenager - who knows they have to let their children make their own mistakes, no matter how painful it might be. I know my daughter will get her heart broken, I know my kids will someday go to keggers and drink ... I know they will make mistakes, I know they will cry ... I know that's going to be hard to watch, but I also know the best thing is to just be here for them and offer them a shoulder to cry on and a sympathetic ear when the time comes ...

    And I believe God - and prayer - is a lot like that.

    1. Sometimes I wish I had more of an ability to just stop thinking and believe and have faith--but I don't. I break things down to minutea and want facts and examples and proof--and I simply don't have any.
      I think it is awesome that you KNOW your kids will good--too many parents expect their kids to be perfect and create a pressure and image the kids can never live up to.
      They will all appreciate your shoulder one day.
      Glad you came by! Come again-

    2. Your kids will GOOF--not good. :P Sorry. :)

  14. I think faith is a very individual matter, and more than facts and proofs, it is about what makes you feel good. I do believe in God, and sometimes circumstances make me question that faith-- but I know believing is easier for me than not believing, so I just come back to it. great post.

  15. SO interesting and I like that way you put "believing is easier for me than not believing". I think that makes you very lucky because for me it is the opposite. I know people who find great comfort there. I truly wish I did--but alas.
    So glad you came by to comment--hope you come back.


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