Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sympathy and prayer

I've been writing stories about spirituality for me in chronological order. The next step in the narrative is the time that I almost became Orthodox. The large amount of information I would need to convey about Orthodoxy for the story to make any sense to someone who doesn't know a lot about Orthodoxy makes the writing difficult enough; I think there are other complications, as well. I'm pausing posting about that story for a week or two. In the mean time, I might write shorter essays, like this one.

I have noticed that I've become less devout in some ways; I don't pray very much, I don't read the Bible devotionally, I still go to church, but it doesn't feel the same. I was more excited about getting an espresso machine at Christmas than I was about the religious root of the holiday. I've found other things that sort-of replace some of my former practices; I read the existentialists and some Buddhist texts, I meditate some. It's not the same, though.

One of my brothers is having some troubling medical problems, he was hospitalized yesterday. When I found out, I didn't feel particularly sad or wiped out, I didn't feel connected to his problems. The was no difference in my mood before and after finding out about my brother's hospitalization.

I felt kind of bad about how little I felt about him, but I think that, in general, I'm a little less prone to empathize than average. I think that's okay, the more important thing is actually doing something.

Just now, at five PM on Monday, I got an email from Dad; he had stayed up all night with my brother. I'm sure he's exhausted. I thought, "I want to call home and let Dad know that I'm praying." All of a sudden, I teared up, which is unusual for me. I was sad for my brother. I called home; Dad was out, but I got to talk with my sister. I reminded her to pray.

A few minutes later, I got a call from a friend, he's having a crisis today, and asked me to pray for him. I've tried previously to explain to him that I don't think God exists and I don't pray very much any more, but that didn't make a difference, he kept asking me to pray for him. Now, when he calls and asks for prayer, I quickly pray a silent prayer. This makes me feel like a slightly-more-honest person, rather than not praying at all. I know that I'd forget to pray after the conversation.

When I got the email from my Dad, I saw that a lot of people were CC'd on it, relatives and friends of the family. Dad hadn't specifically asked for prayer, but I knew that was the implication. And, I wanted to pray, genuinely, not just for my parents' sake. It feels more productive than just feeling sympathy, even though I don't think God exists.


  1. I just have to say - please keep writing. You are a good writer. And you capture so much of what is commonly called "the human experience". And I suspect you may be helping more people clarify their own thoughts and journey than you know.

  2. Good, honest content. I appreciate it. If God does exist, and he/she is all the Bible claims, then it would be foolish not to invoke his/her name/power in a situation beyond our control. If God doesn't exist, then no harm done.

    I like to believe God exists.

  3. Alex,

    I appreciate this post in particular because I'm also a Christian agnostic with a seriously ill sibling. She asks me to pray, and I tell her that I will, and I do, but what I mean by "prayer" has changed a lot in recent years.