How Quitting Prayer Made Me a Believer
Westernized prayer made me feel like God was ignoring me. I turned to meditation instead.
I’ve always struggled with the idea of an interventionist God. The idea of treating an omnipotent power like a vending machine: If you put in faith, good works, and requests, you’ll get the world to go your way.
This assumes God operates within a meritocracy. It assumes that the better you are, the better you’ll be treated by the almighty. It assumes you can get everything you want if you just pray hard enough, if you’re holy enough, if you never stray. But when “ask and you shall receive” ends up being your proof of faith, how are we meant to react when God says “no”?
About 17 years ago, I was attending church three times a week. My mother had been diagnosed with cancer and then gone into remission, only to find out that her husband, my stepdad, had been cheating on her while she was in chemo. After an ugly divorce, her cancer returned, but this time it didn’t look like she was going to win.
Church became our solace. The community we built there helped us through her divorce and her illness. They prayed our way through each crises, and I prayed with them.
But each time, God seemed to tell us “no.”
After my mom died, I kept praying. It was inertia. But it gradually began to feel hollow. I didn’t throw a tantrum and tell God, “I’m never speaking to you again.” Instead, it was a slow decline in trust. It was as if I were a child, and my parent had stopped showing up for me.
For someone who’d been so embedded in prayer, and the culture of faith, my decision to stop praying wasn’t easy. When life is hard, hopeless, and confusing, prayer is often the only thing that empowers us. It’s how we fight helplessness.
But when we stop praying, helplessness is all that’s left. For most of us, that’s very uncomfortable. And even after I’d decided to quit, I kept fighting the urge to pray. I’d think: How much easier would it be to say a quick prayer on the off chance it might work?
I’d been leaning on the “We’ll pray for you” method of doing nothing.