Tuesday, January 6, 2009


These ideas came to me as I was thinking about the manifest inefficacy of prayer in the form of begging a deity to grant favors. Every year whole churches full of people are obliterated by storm or sea or earthquakes while earnestly beseeching their God to save them. Prayers for justice are answered by the victory of missiles and bombs. How many sick or dying people are not praying for relief as their condition worsens?

Spare me the arguments about “God's mysterious plan”. The fact is that in this life, on this planet, we see no evidence that a helpful deity is influenced by prayers to let one person succeed and another fail, or this tribe or army be victorious, because one person or group is better at praying than others.

I believe that our misguided concept of a potentially helpful God who is amenable to appeals to sympathy is related to the notion of a Creator molding man from clay scooped from a river bed. That widespread “mud” creation myth in different versions puts God in the place of a potter at his wheel, turning out creatures to populate the earth and then bringing them to life. This leads to the idea of a Master managing his creations. The general conclusion of such creation myths throughout the world is that the Creator was not merely creating robots to serve his needs, or to play with as toys, but instead that the Creator assumes a managerial role and is concerned with the welfare of his creatures. “The Lord is my shepherd.” And if this anthropomorphic Creator continues as a manager, some of his creatures may be able to get special favors if they play up to him in the right way, or fashion words or rituals to gain his approval and help.

A more accurate image of creation than the potter is that of a spring bubbling up from the earth to form a pool and overflow into as stream, or a fountain spraying water droplets into the air, or a fire throwing out sparks. An erupting volcano's lava populates the landscape with forms, but it is a spontaneous creative action rather than the planned art of a human potter.

When we conceive of the Source as a spring of being bringing potentialities into existence, rather than as a managing and judging superperson, we are on the path to looking to our own creative imaging and actions to form our condition and our destiny. You learn that instead of being a begging child you are a lens which can focus the brilliant power of the Source to achieve effects on ourselves, other people, and our universe. Thus I admired a poster I saw on the wall of an Olympic champion's room. A man stands looking up the vast expanse of the sky, saying “These are my orders for the Universe today.

Start them young! (From a Christian website.)

“DLTK's Bible Activities
Old Testament Bible Crafts for Kids

Creation Craft
Uses a gingerbread man to explain the creation of man!
Age 3+”


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I like the idea, the image of a fountain spraying water droplets into the air. Even if they obey the same laws of Nature, every one of them has a different shape,every one of them is unique and every one "sees" and reflects the light, the Universe in a different way. But...some of these water droplets will become gingerbread men. They will lose their individuality and they will be those who go to church every Sunday, the organized ones, the herd of God.

    I will never be a gingerbread!

  3. Adriana, I love your comment, especially your thoughts about the water droplets, and phrase, "the herd of God." Thank you!

  4. I just wanted to put out there that if there is a God or a Source to which one can pray to, just because you pray doesn't mean your 'wish' is automatically granted. There is such a thing as answering 'no' to a question or plea, after all.

  5. Antonia, welcome, and thanks for your comment. What you say is completely logical, and I agree if we're talking about prayer requests for a car or a doll or more money. The problem for me is that in western culture generally we've been told that God must be all-good and omnipotent. And yet this God routinely permits horrible pain and suffering and injustice. Why would a "good" God refuse to answer "yes" to a prayer, "Please relieve me from this awful pain" or "Please don't let my child burn to death in that house"? I know, I know, the answer is that we don't understand God's ways or plan, but I don't agree with that.

    Thanks again for coming to my blog! Please come back.

  6. I've never been satisfied with the 'mysterious ways of God' theory either. I think it's perfectly possible to understand God's ways and plan, you just have to work at it, and sift through all the strange notions people put out there.

    This is a bit of my reasoning:

    For one thing, if God never allowed anything bad to happen to anybody, I would guess life wouldn't be as great as it could be (as strange as that sounds), because without opposition we wouldn't appreciate the good things in life. For instance, if you've been healthy for a long stretch of time, you don't really think about it; it doesn't make you happy, because you don't appreciate the fact. However, if you've just gotten over some illness, whether it be a minor cold or something much worse, your state of current good health can make everything seem a bit brighter, and you know that you are lucky to be healthy.

    Another thing is that man was promised free agency. God, being perfect, has to keep his promises. If one man choses to murder another, for example, God cannot take that decision away from him; it is the man's decision to make.

    This next one is the one I think is most commonly attributed to the 'mysterious ways' excuse. People go through life to learn: not just facts and concepts, but also a kind of learning that shapes one, that helps a person progress and grow. What would anyone learn if everything in life came easily to them, if nothing ever went wrong, and life was just a happy-go-lucky type of existence? Suffering, even something as awful as having your child burn to death, is meant to push one in a forward direction. From a terrible experience like that, you might learn to appreciate the here and now, to take advantage of every moment you have with your loved ones, and thereby make your friends family a happier bunch of people. Having suffered such awful pain yourself, you could now understand what someone else was going through, and help them through it. People often attribute suffering to 'God's mysterious ways' because they don't know what there was to be learned from a certain instance of pain, but I think there is always a chance for growth.

    I have heard some people say that you should thank God for your trials. This makes it sound as though God is responsible for them. I don't believe that an 'all-good and omnipotent' God, as you put it, would be sitting somewhere plotting
    misery, or even trials, for people. Things simply happen in life.

    There are a couple scriptural verses that shed some light on this specific problem. One says, "And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you." Meaning that even if you're a super-wonderful person pouring your
    heart out to God to relieve some kind of suffering, the answer will still be 'no' if what you're asking for isn't right. I think 'right' covers more meanings of the word than just morally right. Another verse says, "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought." Taken in conjunction, I would take these to mean that God has an overall view of everything: our lives as well as everyone else's, a perfect knowledge of what
    we can handle, future events, etc. We don't. For all we know, the child in the burning building that we're frantically praying for would go through even worse suffering in later life if it survived the fire. Imagine living an entire life with skin from head to toe disfigured and melded together, breathing problems, excruciating pain, etc., because of that fire, when the alternative could have been a relatively quick, if terribly painful, death, whereafter you would go to paradise. We simply don't know what is going to happen in the future, and God does, and God is also working to achieve what is best for everyone because he loves everyone. I suppose this is the ultimate example of the 'God's mysterious way's theory: God allowed this particular thing to happen for a reason we don't know. However, if you believe that God exists and answers prayers, instead of being bitter about God having said 'no' to your plea for your child's life (etc.), you could try
    praying to God to learn what his reason was for allowing the suffering. I don't doubt that a loving God would answer such a prayer positively. Scriptures say that there is nothing that God does not want us to know; we can learn everything God knows with time.

    All of this is of course assuming that there is a God. I think it makes more sense than blithely explaining everything away with the notion that God works in mysterious ways he doesn't care to reveal to mankind.

    Goodness, that was a long comment; I hope I haven't sent you to sleep. I'd be interested to know what you think.

  7. Antonia, I really am glad to see your comment, and I want to give it a careful reading before I respond.

    I wonder if you'd like for me to post it as a "guest post" on this blog.

  8. Could you define 'guest post' for me?

  9. Antonia, I apologize for taking so long to answer you. In the meantime, I've had second thoughts about "guest posts" -- by which I mean posting someone's writing on my blog in the place of a regular post rather than in the Comments section. But I've decided that it's best to leave comments in "Comments". This is no reflection on your excellent long comment! In reading blogs, I often find that the comments are more interesting than the blogs. Thank you. Please comment again.