I had a really nice conversation with a thoughtful young man today, and I asked him if he believed in God, to which he answered yes. I then asked if he prayed, and he said he used to and that it felt good to pray, yet he felt he either was asking God or thanking God as though it were some kind of quid pro quo, so he decided to stop.
I offered him a suggestion– I said, instead of not praying at all, why don’t you redefine your relationship with God and pray based on what resonates with you? There’s no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
What would have been your suggestion in this instance?
I have found in my relationship with prayer, it mostly seems that it’s extreme– similar to the young man– either I’m highly focused, concentrating, and really into it, or I’m going through the motions; it seems to always be one of the extremes. Now, I am a person who admittedly lives on the extremes, yet I have been working on finding the middle ground, and I would love your suggestions as to how you think we can all maintain a truly balanced relationship with God and prayer.
There’s something else I want to bring up– why is it when God speaks of his love in the bible, does God also speak of justice and punishment? Why can’t it just be about love and forgiveness?
Scientists and philosophers have studied this question and found that societies that believe God is only loving and forgiving are less forgiving towards others, and are actually more prone to stealing, cheating, and treating others poorly. However, those who do believe in a God that loves yet punishes are more prone to forgive, be kind, and not take advantage of others.
I would love your explanation as to why this is. My explanation is that when we leave it up to man to carry out moral justice, we are behaving out of self-interest, yet when we leave it up to God, we behave in accord with a communal interest, and we trust that all will work out as it should.
This week, let’s treat forgiveness and kindness as our tools for living, and let’s leave the punishing retribution and justice to God.
Accountability, Community, Unconditional Love
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