peeking around the hedges

Yesterday we talked about the don’t-pray-that trap.

Imagine a child comes to your house for a playdate. You ask if she wants a snack. She sits at the table and says, “Yes, please. I’d like some milk, but not spoiled, and in a cup, and about four ounces.”

What do you assume?

You assume she thinks you might get mad that she asked for milk instead of juice and punish her by giving her spoiled milk, or by pouring it on the table so she has to lap it up, or only a drop of milk so she’s still thirsty. Or maybe a gallon of milk and forcing her to drink the whole thing so she gets sick.

When we hedge our prayers, we’re entering that territory with God. I’ve seen several places where writers encourage us to “pray bold.” That we can’t possibly ask for something God couldn’t deliver. But sometimes we place limits on God.

In the above scenario, these would have been my standard prayer hedges: “Oh, and I know you probably will say no because milk is expensive, and I might spill it, and it might make me fat, and maybe someone else needs the milk more, and I really shouldn’t like milk in the first place. So whatever you want to give me is fine.”

That’s not prayer. I don’t know what that is, but it isn’t prayer. But the fear of asking for things is probably what drove me toward contemplation/centering rather than intercessory prayer. At least in contemplation, you don’t have to ask for things. And yet I’d keep getting prompted during contemplation to at least name a prayer intention.

At some point, I’d just gotten used to the idea that GOD, Inc. was not listening to my prayers, and that while the Kingdom of God really mattered a lot, I personally did not matter at all. If I had the audacity to ask for the wrong thing, therefore, I was calling attention to myself and being a pest, and I deserved whatever I got.

Hence I could “pray bold,” but not for myself. For others I’d ask for the most lavish blessings, but for me, nothing.

Come back tomorrow for part III.


About philangelus

Mom, freelance writer, novelist, angelphile, Catholic, know-it-all.
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4 Responses to peeking around the hedges

  1. cricketB says:

    That kid sounds like how I have to ask my father for things.

    I can’t handle much wine. I told Dad “just a bit”. He asked me to be more specific. “2oz, within 10%.” He was in the kitchen where there are plenty of measuring implements. A standard wine serving is 4oz. Easy enough, right?

    Nope, he gave me 4oz, so I poured half of it into his glass.

    Then there’s Grandma. I asked her for a 2in slice of pie. Yummy and calorie-filled. Her slices are normally 4in. I would have accepted 50% error. Yes, I was “that grandchild” who took her plate into the kitchen and put half her slice back.

    So, maybe the kid knows 4oz will be enough but not too much, and she’ll spill if it’s in a mug but doesn’t need a sippy cup, and one of her regular caregivers doesn’t know all this so she has to remind her frequently.

    Still not sure about “not spoiled”.

    But yeah, God would already know how she liked it.

  2. Jane says:

    But would you assume your father might give you twice as much wine in order to get you drunk so you’d spend the evening puking, feeling sorry you ever asked for wine in the first place? Or would you assume Grandma was trying to overload you with sugar to make you sick, fat, diabetic, etc? And that overall the lesson was you should never have asked for cake in the first place?

    I was doing that. It’s insulting.

  3. cricketB says:

    True. In my case it was habits and lack of paying attention, or lack of ability to learn.

    God wouldn’t do that, but He would want you to pay attention to your own needs.

    My cousin with food-sensitivities (non-dramatic but still uncomfortable) learned that she had to stay in the kitchen when Grandma cooked.

    It’s a matter of degree.

    One time I was praying for a person I had misunderstood, and realized I didn’t know what would help most. Eventually I left the details to God and thanked him for the exercise in thinking like the other person.

    Hedging means we don’t trust God. Thinking carefully is using the opportunity to learn.

    • Jane says:

      The problem with the continuous hedge, though, is that if someone is feeling the need to hedge THAT much, THAT often, what are the odds that she’s not asking for what she really needs? Spending that much energy protecting yourself from the Almighty probably means someone is doing as much as possible trying not to ask for anything (I definitely was — I’d ask myself if there was any way I could get by without praying for myself, and often, I’d just decide not to.)

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