But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. Matthew 6.6
I’ve become friends with someone here on the Mountain. We spent a lot of time together over the winter because she didn’t have a vehicle, and so i was often giving her a ride. I didn’t mind. I remember so clearly the 18 months (just over 10 years ago now) i was using public transportation, and i remember, too, what it was like to have a very limited income.
She and i see things similarly as far as medical intervention and eating healthy. For some time when we were together we would talk and talk, often talking over each other as we tried to get it all in.
But talking over someone else is rude and a very bad habit, so i’ve been trying not to do that any more. Of course, it occurred to me when i realized i needed to stop that i might not ever get to say anything.
No person is 100% anything, but i have found that, yes, now that i don't force myself in the conversation, i'm not talking very much. And i rarely feel like i'm being "heard." There are exceptions, but most of the time i feel like she doesn't hear me.
Because of this, i didn't share my recent loss with her until a couple of days ago. When i did say something, her response was, "Oh that's too bad - " and then she went on to tell me about the hours and hours she's spent at a prayer ministry this past week. I don't think she even heard that i just told her someone significant in my life had died.
A few weeks ago i also shared with her that i'm really, really struggling with some food cravings that are causing problems for me. Her response was, "Now, you just pray about it! Take that directly to the Holy Spirit and ask for help." Then she went on to tell me something else.
I've decided that if this happens again in the future (and it probably will), i'm going to take a second (if she gives it to me), look a little bit puzzled, and then say, "That implies that i don't pray about these things. I'm rather offended by that."
This person talks about prayer over, and over, and over again. I'm starting to feel preached at but not heard. I take the verse i quoted at the top very seriously, as well as the other admonitions in Matthew 6 - to not make a big deal about giving alms and about fasting, as well as trying not to "lay up treasures" here on earth - a challenge for me. Jesus says clearly not to brag about the alms, the prayers, the fasting.
I don't think this person is consciously trying to say she is better than the rest of us. I think she sees talking about prayers to be a measure of spirituality and a form of witness. I think she is very excited about her prayer life and being in touch with others who believe as she does. Since i don't talk about such things, i think she believes i'm lacking in my spiritual life and i need a push, or a reminder.
But people don’t like to be preached at, or have a push or a reminder. I do not feel that i need to talk about prayer all the time. That is not how i am used, how i work, or in my comfort zone. God may use her to reach some people, but i know God is using me to reach others.
And, whether she realizes it or not, it is a form of bragging about spirituality when you tell people you attended a prayer meeting three times a day, three days last week and plan the same this coming week.
It seems to me that a lot of people are quick to admonish others to pray. I'm sorry, but to me this is a pseudo form of spirituality. We are called to be a community of believers. When we admonish each other to pray, it sounds like we are being spiritual. But often i think it covers up the fact that we don't want to deal with the uncomfortable - death or loss of jobs or addiction or alcoholism or children in trouble or serious illness. It is uncomfortable to recognize that we are not able to "fix this" for each other, and since we can't "fix it," it is uncomfortable to have to listen to the pain another person is feeling. So telling that person to pray is a quick and easy "fix." Then we can walk away patting ourselves on the back that we were properly Christian about the whole thing.
I feel like i'm being highly critical in writing this. I don't want to be. I know this person means to be caring and loving and sincere. And relationships are hard. But it is getting old for me. She is using the "Christian hot spots" - words from my childhood that i avoid because of the painful memories they bring. It is not that i don't believe the words (admonishing to pray, and the words "born again," the belief that God directs each and every moment in the world, and other things Christians like to talk of) but that the words/concepts hurt me and so i try to phrase the same concepts in different words. I'm tired of feeling like i'm being preached at. Let me live to honor Jesus the way i feel called to do so, and i'll let you do the same. I do feel like God will use her to reach some people, but i also see in some of the groups we attend her words are pushing folks (not just me) away.
Of course, i'm in danger here of implying that i think my way of talking/sharing, etc. is "the right one" ! ! !