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Monday, February 18, 2013

Self(-ish/-less) Prayer

I'm job hunting. I wish I had a clever pun to relate the title to the book of Job, but I don't. In fact, my clever pun to job hunting desire ratio is 1:1. I don't like job hunting. I don't know anyone who does. But today I had an interview. I feel it went pretty well (I've got about a 50% chance of getting it, as they're only interviewing one other person for the position). I made this obvious on Facebook, and told people to keep their fingers crossed.

[Drastic Subject Change!!]

Over the summer I did a little research on Hebrew/Jewish lament, and I came across a few interesting things in my readings on prayer. There were bits on how Jews used to lament (which was my primary focus), but I discovered one thing I had never heard before: for Jews it is not right to pray for oneself in a way that would negatively affect someone else.

I tried taking this to heart. In a strange way, it has caused me to think more about people I don't know. When I told people on Facebook today to keep their fingers crossed, it was intentional. I meant to avoid asking people to pray for me to get the job. Why? Because it's as if they're praying for the other person not to get the job.

There are things I can pray for myself that have beneficial or neutral effects on others. If I pray for safe travel, it should be as much for myself as everyone else on the road or airport. If I pray for God to help me academically, my good grades would not cost someone else their own. If I pray for a good relationship with my wife, it does not mean I hope for other husbands to not love their own wives.

Some prayers, however, are more tricky. Can I pray for my church to grow? Would doing so be positive (nonbelievers coming to know Christ) or negative (believers leaving their own congregation for my own)? If I pray for good health, does that come at someone else's cost (as in the case of organ transplants)? Should everyone pray for a future spouse? For many Christians, but not all, there is the assumption that a limited number of people will be saved. If those in this mindset pray for a certain person to be saved, does this result in someone else being condemned?

I must confess: this business of prayer is becoming rather complicated. There's more to it than I would ever have imagined. But maybe that's the point. To a certain degree, it's simple: Pray, and pray often. God wants to hear from you. Praying for blessings is not bad, because supply and demand are not an issue.

Here's the point: Think about what you pray for. If difficult questions come up, don't shy away from them; difficult questions help us figure out who we are, even if we never find answers. Pray for yourself, but do not do so at the expense of the rest of God's creation.

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