Christmas is my least favorite season by a wide margin. Mariah Carey is going to make a cool million easy off of that one song that she gets less than a penny for, every time it’s played. You all know the song and the rest of the shopping season playlist hits too. I’m with the Grinch and Scrooge. Cue the prayers! Maybe it’s just me, but people tell me they’re gonna pray for me all the time when I say stuff. Whether it’s stuff that I feel, like these Christmas annoyances or my thoughts on some of these church leaders or kids. I don’t give certain people money and certain people pray that I see past my selfish ways. I’m not the only one, if you march to a different drummer, somebody is praying for you to get on beat with them.
Hell, I can already hear my aunt saying “I’m gonna pray for you” just from reading the title. That said, I’ve been prayed for A LOT over the years. The drummer I march to is more of the improvisational jazz type than classical composition. Despite all these prayers though, for better or worse, I’m still on my own beat. I’m out here like Dave Brubeck playing Take 5! Google it. So is God ignoring those requests or do these folks have it wrong?
“Dear God, I humbly ask you to show him the error in his ways before it’s too late, in Jesus’ name…Amen”My Aunt Upon Reading This
Not gonna dive into the psychological aspect of why we feel the need to pray, rather, what is all this praying about? Well, there are many types of prayer depending on who you ask, but these are the hits I recognize:
Thankful or Giving Thanks– These are like texts or tweets you’d send to Jesus such as “got a parking spot near the door, thank you Jesus”. Not always frivolous, but I’d say most of these probably are.
Adoration – This is commonly seen on Sunday, at church, and it’s not really a request for anything specific, just letting God know that the people praying love God. Sometimes people like to make this a competition of “who feels it most”.
Contrition – When you did something you shouldn’t have done and you want to tell God or let God know you aren’t just out here bad for no reason at all. Guys get to praying their girl doesn’t find out about whatever he did.
Supplication – This is the humble beg to aide the person praying, or on behalf of someone else whether they asked or not. They aren’t always passive aggressive, but quite a few are.
Quick note, I don’t refer to God in the masculine or feminine because I don’t view God as having a gender. I see God as the energy that makes us what we are. Not a perpetually 55 year old White man that works out like Dwayne Johnson…as so many artists have depicted. We’ll get into this at a later time, moving on for now.
Supplication on someones behalf is what I’m focusing on here. The general idea behind this prayer is that it is the ultimate act of selflessness. Here you are taking time out of your day to make this plea to God on behalf of someone else, because of what you don’t like about them. Instead of you feeling, or because you feel some type of way towards that person, you ask God to change their ways for you. I mean, that’s what it amounts to. Look, if the only viable options in your mind are praying for me or actively forcing your way of thinking on me, then by all means, pray on praya. However, if these are the only options you recognize, you need the prayer more than the person you’re praying for. On the most part, we all have the ability to reason and deal with our emotions rationally, some folks choose not to. For those people I think to myself “you’re already playing God by judging that person’s actions, why not complete the loop with controlling your own”? Just a thought though.
We have control
Yeah, you kinda do. In the moments where one feels the need to pray for another person, because that person is falling short of expectations they aren’t even aware you have for them, yes, you have control over how you respond. Even in situations where someone falls short of expectations they know you have for them, you have control over how you respond. Your response to outside stimuli is 100% in your control. You can choose to let this ruin a piece of your day and possibly theirs or accept it. The actions of the other person are not in your control, so toiling over them or making pleas to God that they act in the manner you want them to is probably pointless. That person could be praying to be better at acting in the manner you disapprove of. Thus setting up a prayer grudge match with God as the referee.
“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react that matters”Epictetus
“The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best”Epictetus
Instead of Praying
Try remaining calm, rationalize what is happening, accept that you can only control your reaction to it, and free yourself of the weight of the world. Sounds pretty simple right? Almost too simple, but I would say try it.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s possible to pray for someone to receive good favor, or pray for their success, or just keep them in your thoughts and prayers. If you do this, fine, just know in doing so you’re letting that person know up front that outside of wishing to God, you can’t or won’t do anything tangible for that person. I imagine these people walking past a homeless guy with 2 hoagies in hand, and the homeless guy is pleading for food and you say “I’m gonna pray for you my man”. It’s absolutely your right to say that, but that’s hardly the best option you have available if you sincerely want to assist this man, that’s all I’m saying. Let me get back on track.
That said, no, I’m not praying for you! I’m focusing on maintaining control of me. I’m directing my energy towards personal growth instead of wishing to the heavens that others conform to my ego. I’m not skipping the bended knee just because I recognize their actions are outside my control; that’s the main part of it, but I also don’t want to give anyone authority over how I perceive my day. I also don’t want to concede control of my ability to make sense of the world to God when I am totally capable of managing that on my own.
Live and let live is probably the best advice for those that want to pray away the heathen in someone else. Malcolm X was one of the most influential people of the 20th century and he was a criminal by his own account before that. People change at their own pace, so unless their actions are threatening your way of life, have a whole seat. Life is a personal journey, charting your own path is equally as important as respecting the paths of others.