I grew up with parents who believed in the Power of Prayer. From beginning a road trip or trying to find a parking spot in Manhattan or finding lost keys, my parents’ solution to any problem was always the same: pray about it.
I was never a praying person. While prayer circles at Wednesday night prayer meetings offered weekly intercessions to the throne of heaven, I sat bored, slightly uncomfortable with grown men speaking to the air about Deacon Bob’s colonoscopy. If only prayer meeting had it’s own drinking game, I could have used the communion cups for something other than in remembrance of Jesus.
Which is to not to say I did not pray. When I was a teenager I made bargains God. By God, I mean, a supreme being who had a direct and active interest in my life. In exchange for the services of the king of the Universe, I’d offer something in return. Of all the gifts I was taught I could offer, my “heart”, “soul”, “worship”, I went with a different approach. Most times, in exchange for whatever nonsense I was asking for, I’d swear to stop masturbating. Sometimes for two weeks. Sometimes for even longer. Of all the gifts that should have been well-pleasing until the Lord, this seemed sufficient. Now, masturbation was more than just a horny 15 year old discovering the underwear section of weekend ad magazines. My parents hated turning on the heat. Their house was cold. I had to warm up. My house was so cold, I’d masturbate to the point I misdiagnosed my sleep apnea to just post-wacking off fatigue. Anyway, I needed to offer something. So I offered that. Needless to say, whether I was praying for a good grade or a chance to talk to my crush or whatever, regardless of the outcome, I didn’t keep up my part of the bargain.
Growing up, I ditched prayer altogether. Maybe praying is a lot like eating chicken soup for a cold. One could eat chicken soup for a week and get better. Or just wait a week…..and get better. There’s a train of Christian reasoning that argues that one of the great defenses for religion is that it can’t hurt to try. Either the claims of religion are true. Or they aren’t. If someone gave you a lottery ticket, you’ve no reason not to scratch. Either it’s a winner or it’s a dud. But there is no real risk.
Earlier this year, I found myself homeless, jobless, and fighting the urge to buy tickets to Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto Tour. Here’s some background. Coldplay is my favorite band. This is their grandest tour. If ever I needed a time I needed something to believe in, it was when I’d 80 dollars in the bank. Needless to say, the stakes were high. I was faced with a massive question. Maybe I should pray for a way to go?
I did not pray about it. Either it is because I’ve nothing to bargain with, no moral capital to cash in like I would have when I was the churchgoer.
Two weeks later, my friend got tickets from her job. She asked me if I wanted to go. We went and it was wonderful. Prayer: 0. The Universe: 1.
I’m not sure if this proved anything. And if I’m intellectually honest with myself, there was a time where inexplicably, something good happened that chicken soup couldn’t fix. I prayed about it. And I got it. Once was when I was in Kindergarten. My parents took our family’s caravan into the middle of Nowhere, New York for a year. I prayed for a kite. The next day, the teacher in my Christian school tested me on math questions. I aced it. She took me to her trunk where she kept her pries. There lay a kite. That, my friends, is proof.