Magic Jewball

all signs point to no


Petitioning the Lord with prayer

Filed under : Life in general
On May 6, 2010
At 12:30 am
Comments : 15

Do you remember that Sex and the City where Carrie gets broken up with on a post-it note? Tragic, just tragic. It could have been worse, though. She could have found out she was getting laid off by receiving an invitation to her own going away party. You think that sort of thing doesn’t really happen, don’t you? But, my friends, it does, and I know it because it happened to me. In fact, my going away party was earlier this week. Luckily, I received a thoughtful invitation. The best part was, and by that I mean the most bitterly ironic, was that the party was simply “lunch with cupcakes and a few thank you words.” Then there was no food for me and there were no cupcakes. Inside, I sort of laughed at this, but later, I managed to corner the other woman who had gotten laid off and our conversation went like this:

Me: Did you know before that email that we were finishing this week?
She: No! I couldn’t believe it! I thought we were staying through the Summer. Then I get this email about a lunch with cupcakes… and to top it all off, there were NO CUPCAKES!

I think “there were no cupcakes” might be my go-to phrase from now on for all of life’s unfair moments.

I mention all this because I couldn’t decide how to handle some aspects of the situation and solicited advice from some friends. One of them, my friend Tami whose faith I very much admire, told me she would advise her own daughters to pray about it. This is the second time I’ve heard this phrase this week and it’s led me to ponder. Jews don’t really pray for guidance or to ask a question. There are three kinds of Jewish prayer: praise for God, requests for things (like rain or peace or a child), and thanks. Usually in that order. Makes sense, right? But sometimes I do want guidance and so I write this as a reverse of my usual Jew&A. If anyone would like to comment and talk about praying about things, I’d be very interested. Not so that I can do that too, really, but more to better understand it. You’ve all been so kind and interested in my religion and I am in yours, too.

I know the temptation is to comment, “So sorry, Bec” or “What? No cupcakes?” and you can do that too but I would really like to hear about what it means to pray about things. But let me ask that in the Jewish way.

You guys are the greatest, most wonderful readers a blogger could have. I praise your very awesomeness! I am nothing compared to your loftiness.
Could you tell me something about praying about things and maybe experiences you would feel comfortable sharing?
I appreciate it so much! I thank you for all you do.


Edited late Thursday to add: Today is the National Day of Prayer which I did not know when I wrote this. ~cue Twilight Zone music~

Title comes from:
The Doors – The Soft Parade


15 Comments for this post

  1. Cathy says:

    Hi Becca–

    There are different ways I pray. Sometimes it’s just “thanks for the parking space” but I am always a little torn about praying for things, because how do you know if what if you are praying for it God’s will? For myself, I tend to pray for things like patience, focus, clarity or direction. Also, if I wanted to pray for something like for example, if my daughter had an audition that I hoped would go well, I wouldn’t pray that she got the role she wanted, but I would pray that she was well prepared and that her audition performance would be the best she had to offer.

    I was just talking yesterday though about the idea of following your own will instead of God’s will and the problem is that unless you are dealing with a flat-out sin, how do you really know the difference?

    I hope this helped!


  2. Jane says:

    One of the things I struggle with is that I identify more towards the agnostic/atheist end of the spectrum 80% of the time.

    But then when something really wonderful happens in my life, I find myself pausing to reflect and issuing a mental thank you. Later, I’ll think “Who am I thanking?” and it will send me into deep thought about my beliefs/lack thereof.

    I never find myself asking for guidance or asking for specific things. But I say thanks a lot. I hope that the higher power appreciates that I give him credit but never make requests.

    This is an interesting topic. I think I may set a goal to do more intentional meditation on issues that bother me, and see where that goes.

  3. My parents are staying with me this week and I just had a similar conversation with her this morning!

    A little background: Mom is a devout Catholic who went to Catholic school through 8th grade. Dad grew up in a Methodist household and became a Catholic when I was in elementary school. I grew up as a Catholic but left the church in my mid-20s for a variety of reasons.

    I consider myself a Christian but do not belong to any organized religion or church – also for a variety of reasons. I do not pray on a daily basis.

    My mother reads her Bible and prays every morning as well as throughout the day. She prays in praise, for guidance and for help about all things, large and small. She’ll pray for a parking space (she has mobility issues) and she’ll pray for peace and healing.

    I’m not sure if/how my Dad prays or what his prayers concern.

    As for me, I will say a quick “thank you” prayer for nice surprises (like beautiful sunrises, sunsets, flowers, good timing, etc.), even if I didn’t pray for them prior to them happening. I only deliberately pray for specific guidance when I’ve exhausted my pros-cons analyses and research and just don’t know what to do. Other than that, I rarely pray for myself. I do pray for others but, again, I don’t pray a lot. It’s mostly the big things like serious illnesses, accidents, and other traumatic events.

    I do believe there are miracles.

  4. Lisa aka Nutz says:

    Bec – I AM sorry.

    I do pray every day. I mostly pray for the health and well being of my family. But, during certain times in my life, I have prayed for God to show me the way. You know?

    There have been many crossroads in my life. And I’m a terrible decision maker, so I need help to know which way is “right” or “right” at that moment. Usually, I need to make lists, talk to some trusted people in my life and then, close my eyes and hope that I’m thinking straight and just DECIDE.

    Sometimes it’s totally opposite of what makes sense to do. Those are the times when I know I’ve been guided by God. I do try to remember to say thank you for the help.

    I appreciate this question- very interesting. 🙂

  5. Becca says:

    First off, I just got home from a long day and I appreciate so much these thoughtful answers. They were just what I had hoped for. Thank you thank you thank you. And I just found out that today is the National Day of Prayer. How weird is that?


    Cathy, hm, that’s an interesting point. The Hebrew Bible states that people have free will but that God encourages you to choose the good choice. But how do we know what that is? I suppose I believe that God does have will but that He can be influenced. For instance, He wanted to destroy Sodom and Gomorra but Abraham argued with him saying, what if there are 50 righteous people there? OK, how about 40?

    So maybe God is like us or, rather, we are like God. You make up your mind about something, but some persuasive arguments or even begging can sway you. And sometimes, you are just set in your decision and it can’t be changed.

    Jane, I use the term God, but I think sometimes I just believe in a force, maybe the universe, if you will. I think sometimes on a beautiful day, when things are going right or someone says, “I love you,” it’s hard to believe that it’s all just random. And when bad things happen, I have to believe in a kind of balance, that things are going wrong for me but somewhere they are going right for someone else or that out of my bad will come good. Again, I feel like that’s ordained by the universe, somehow.

    Ima, I agree, organized religion is in no way necessary for prayer. And I was struck by “even if I didn’t pray for them prior to them happening” because, when someone gives you a gift, don’t you say thank you even if you didn’t ask for it? So I think that’s perfectly natural. In some ways, we’re even more thankful for things for which we did not ask.

    And I also believe in miracles.

    Lisa, thank you. And if you don’t mind my following up, this goes to the heart of the question, for me. When you pray for guidance, how do you know you’ve been guided by God? Is it just a feeling? I think God is within us, too. But I would think it would be hard to know which message He is sending, you know?

  6. JennyPA says:

    I’m not a prayer (pray-er?), as I’m more of a secularist. But, I do try to quiet my thoughts and open myself to possible solutions to a problem or a direction I’m seeking that might come to mind. I’m not sure where the solution or direction comes from, but whether it’s from the inner recesses of my own mind or a higher power, the end result is the same. I come away with ideas I didn’t have before.

  7. Lisa aka Nutz says:

    It is hard to know. I guess that is where faith comes in.

    Times that I’ve struggled and finally felt peace with a decision is when I feel I’ve been led.

  8. Irishelena says:

    My family was never one to pray for guidance [my parents seemed to pretty much lose their religion after the death of a child–I was shocked to see my father ‘run the category’ in “Bible” while watching Jeopardy when he was in his mid 80s–I never knew he had been that religious in earlier times]. But I do know many people who ‘pray for guidance’ when a problem comes up. They are not asking for a job or money or any one thing. Just for God to guide them to make the right decision. Others do pray for the health and well being of a family member or friend, or a stranger who ‘needs prayers’. Usually along the lines of ‘Dear God, please be with these people in their struggles and help them to weather the storm’ kind of thing. It’s a comfort thing, as much as anything. Comfort for the pray-er and pray-ee.
    Sorry for the layoff, Becca. And even sorrier for the lack of cupcakes. I may have to bake a batch and eat them as I pray for your well-being.

  9. Becca says:

    Jenny, thanks, I think that’s spot on. Because when we get those sorts of answers, how do we know where they come from? I suppose that’s where faith comes in.

    Lisa, that’s sort of what I imagined (or hoped), a feeling of peace or “knowing.” Thanks for sharing that.

    Irish, I can imagine losing faith after something like that. And I realized last night that I just never pray for myself in the conventional way I pray for others (psalms, standard Jewish prayers) but rather in an informal “pleeeeeese, let this happen!” kind of way. Odd.

    And thank you, please enjoy those cupcakes. 😀

  10. Irishcardinal says:

    My most common prayer is “please God, don’t let our closer blow this save.” So far, my prayers have been answered. Now I have probably jinxed him for mentioning it.

  11. Lexy says:

    So you mention Tami but don’t say that my advice was the part that made you feel better?


    It’s because I’m not religious, isn’t it???


  12. Becca says:

    Irish, it’s all your fault!

    Lex, I knew you would say that! But you did not fit in with my theme so you ended up on the cutting room floor. You may make the DVD extras, though. 😛

  13. Cathy says:

    This is the first time I have ever selected the “email me with comment updates” options and I’m so glad that I did.

  14. Tami says:

    I grew up kneeling in family prayer every night before we went to bed and each morning before we went to school. We prayed before every meal. We had our own personal prayer. My daughters would most likely tell you the same thing about our home. (My dad was MUCH better about the consistency)

    For me, prayer is a very personal thing. My prayers are different every time. They aren’t rote or written down. It’s just me and my Heavenly Father. I feel the same way as Cathy does in that God’s will is at the core. I pray to thank Him for my blessings then ask him for the things I stand in need of (spiritually and temporally).

    Sometimes my prayers are a minute. Sometimes they could last for many minutes. Sometimes I’ve been known to fall asleep as I kneel beside my bed. Other times, during family prayer, our prayers have dissolved into fits of giggles and we finally just give up. This is prayer to me…a continuation of my connection with my Heavenly Father while I have this Earthly existence.

    Prayer is part of who I am. Becca, thank you for opening this up for us. I honestly feel comfortable sharing.

  15. Becca says:

    Cathy, I totally agree. Thank you all so much.

    Tami, I agree that all those kinds of prayers have a place. Prayer with other people connects you with them as well as God. It reinforces that we’re all a community and that things that happen affect all of us. Personal prayer is what your heart wants to say, in a way.

    Have you ever seen Fiddler on the Roof? I think it’s set up as a bit of a laugh how Tevye, the main character, is in a constant conversation with God. But I think we who believe (and some who don’t, even) all are.

    Thank you for sharing that.

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