I have only half an hour to give to this, but let’s see what I can say in that time . . .
This sucks. All my pain — it sucks.
I want to tell you how mad I am and cry about it and hopefully feel better, but that feels like using you — like, why don’t I just go to a therapist or something? Why do I have to make this religious and drag you into it? It seems like I just address these words to You because it works better that way as therapy.
Is that, perhaps, something resembling faith, though? And my anger about suffering does seem like a religious issue if I’ve ever seen one.
But where are you?
Why don’t I have faith in you? Or if you retort that I do, why don’t I feel it? Why am I not more at peace?
If you’re so damned GOOD as they say you are, why is the world like this? Why do you allow so much pain? Even if I can be at peace — even if I can, in the future, not “suffer” through my pain — what about my past pain and suffering, and what about everyone else’s?
O God, oh God, speak to me, speak to me. Or if you have been speaking to me, speak louder. I can’t hear you! Or if I can, I don’t think I can!
Help me to believe. Help me to have faith. Help me to trust that all this pain and suffering can be redeemed. Better yet, just redeem it, now.
Supposedly, you have already redeemed it. You’ve entered our world as one of us and died for our sins — whatever that means — and you’ve been resurrected. But I don’t feel it; I don’t trust it; I don’t get it; I don’t know it, I don’t have faith in it.
Oh please, I don’t have to wait twenty years like Teresa of Avila, do I? Can’t we stop this now?
I think maybe I need to forgive you. Please help me to forgive you. Help free me of this grudge I hold against you.
If you’re so damned good, why all this suffering?!?! Why have the past ten years of my life been so miserable? Oh sure, sometimes it’s been okay, but please, please, give me joy! I want joy! I want thoroughgoing peace. Why can’t I have it?
If this suffering is somehow for the greater good, well, that’s pretty lame. You’re God — that is, if you’re there at all and this prayer isn’t just pointless. Why the heck can’t you do any better than this? Why can’t you come up with a better way for people to “grow” or whatever? Explain yourself! This seems so cruel and ridiculous.
You’re supposedly all-powerful, or at least the Creator of all. It sure looks to me like you royally fucked up and owe a lot of us — well, actually, all of us — some heavy-duty penance and repentance.
Make things right! Or else show me that they are!
Why not now?
Three books that have helped me to be able to pray (sometimes):
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer by C. S. Lewis. A good book for those with intellectual inhibitions to prayer — that is, for those who have trouble praying because prayer doesn’t seem like something that a rational and intelligent person would do.
Primary Speech: A Psychology of Prayer by Ann and Barry Ulanov. Gives you permission and encouragement to be completely honest and self-revealing with God: to freely express all of your thoughts and feelings, including anger at God and disbelief in God.
The Need and the Blessing of Prayer by Karl Rahner. Especially helpful for those who have deep-seated doubts that there could possibly be a loving God in charge of such a mess of a universe and who, because of this, find it nearly impossible to pray.
A graduate of Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, Kim Boykin is assistant director of its Youth Theology Institute and teaches Zen meditation classes specifically for Christians.