I’ve noticed an exceedingly disturbing trend (to me) in which people only pray when the shit hits the fan. I’m not saying that this is a predominantly pagan or Christian occurrence. I see it in both religious instances, to be perfectly frank, but it absolutely and one hundred percent disturbs me to no end. I can’t tell you that I have the best possible way to do things because I don’t really think any one person’s way is better than anybody else’s. (Hm, a fundamental issue with two out of the three of the Big 3, me thinks.) I don’t feel the need to lord it over others’ heads that I’ve “been doing it longer” so therefore, I must be a walking god or some shit. Nope, no. Nada. That’s not me. But I will say that this whole trend to turn to deities when shit gets real seems pretty fucking stupid.It’s possible that the reason I have this issue is because, quite frankly, I didn’t pray as a child. I was technically a Christian. I went to church. I sat through my Sunday school classes. I’m sure I picked up a thing or six in the entire time I went there. But, praying wasn’t one of them. Fellow Methodists may know what I’m talking about – I’m a little fuzzy on how other religions do it that aren’t Catholic – but when it came time to do that Sunday-only little epistle to God, where we all bowed our heads and said some things to the Big Guy In the Sky, I really didn’t know what to say. I was always at a loss for words. It seemed to me, even back then, that talking about how I’m miserable in school because I have no friends, nobody understands me and oh yeah, my dad was dead… It just didn’t seem like the kind of thing to talk about with the Christian God.
Besides, I had done all my praying about my daddy as a kid. It seems to me that, you know, if he wasn’t going to pull a second Lazarus on my dad, then he was probably not going to want to listen to my rage at ‘im for that.
So more often than not, I would bow my head and study my hands. Or I would imagine what it would be like to fly to the big, huge stone rafters over my head. I would draw stick figures on the programs they give out – why do people feel the inherent need to know what’s going to happen in a two-hour long Sunday ceremony? there will be praise and Bible and greetings, it’s all pretty much the same – or play hangman with myself since my kid brother would go to the kids’ chapel and I’d get bored with my mom. Some times, I imagined by unicorn and horse herd in the cordoned off seats to our right. (Don’t ask.) And other times, I would get up twenty times “to pee” just to explore the building without any adult supervision because, frankly, I had really nothing of interest to say to the Christian deity.
Often, I’ll see Christians, now, talk about how they’re praying to get things going the way they want. The thing is that I just don’t really think that the Christian deity they’re working with is very intent or cares very much. This may have something to do with my delving into voodoo in my practices. (They believe that Bondye exists, but that he’s pretty damn impartial and not-caring, which is why lwa are around – they get the jobs we desire done.) So, I mean, I could clearly say that I’m biased here. Why would the Christian god, after giving over the only begotten child for our sins, really give two shits about whether or not the car gets paid off in time or whether or not we have walking pneumonia versus a really bad chest cold? I just don’t see it. But, I think my bias here is mostly in the fact that, as a kid, I was taught that you prayed to your god when things got real and then, maybe a miracle would happen and maybe it wouldn’t.
Since the miracle of resurrection didn’t happen with my father, I kind of figured that anything else, paling in comparison to that, wasn’t on the Christian deity’s list of things to do. And I’ll be frank, I just can’t see praying to a mortal who died for sins. Considering all the stuff that they claim the Christ went through, I mean, it seems really wrong to ask him for anything. HULLO? CROWN OF THORNS? I know that was supposedly the point and all, but any problem I can come up with, sans not resurrecting my dad, is probably not going to measure up on the list of “miracles to grant.” Getting a car paid off, hoping it’s not pneumonia, getting a job… All these things just don’t seem like the kind of things either of those two divinities would care to talk about or make happen. Again, it kind of comes down to, let’s compare notes on what we think is bad versus how it probably was for the Christ and, you know, nothing compares to his prayers that you know, he probably NOT die a miserable, horrific death. Or that people use his name to start wars BUT WHATEVER.
So, what the fuck does this have to do with my gods, my prayers?
You’ll notice that I have an entire category called “Letters.” In that category, I offer some of my more formalized prayers to various gods. I believe there is one in there to Sutekh, one or two to Sekhmet, one or two to Ptah… So, obviously, I have prayed to my gods when things were bad. Obviously, I’m ranting and raving here about something that I’m guilty of doing.
The thing is that I talk to my gods daily. I go over and I give them their daily offerings. And throughout the day, I pray to them. “O, Sekhmet, give me strength to not fall asleep during this boring, boring shift.” Or, “O, Hetharu, remind me to love myself.” However, those aren’t the only kinds of prayers I do with them, either. When I’m baking for the gods, that’s a prayer right there to me. When I’m cleaning their altars, I’m praying that I get the arrangements right. When I did my Thanksgiving, polytheist style, I was praying to all of my gods. I wasn’t asking them to make things happen; I was telling them that I trusted that things would happen. It’s not a miracle. It just is. The Universe, the gods, the lwa, they will all provide for me. I may not understand what it is I have to go through now, which is… pretty bad, but I believe that they will hold out. That they will show me the way. It’s just a matter of my getting through the tough times long enough to see the happening materialize.
I pray to my gods. I talk to them daily. I tell them about how hard it is for me to believe that things will work out. I’ve fallen down, sobbing hysterically, in front of my altars and demanded to know why this shit is happening to me. I’ve had my moments where I have raged at them, angrily, because I don’t understand why things are the way they are. But, I don’t just turn to them about that. I talk to them about how my kid is great, even when he annoys me. I talk to them about how excited I am about going Christmas tree hunting with TH’s family or how I’m so happy my nephew is finally taking tiny steps (even though walking, on his own, is probably a long, long way off). I talk to them about how I’m worried a new god is coming in. I talk to them about how I will find a job. I talk to them in positives and in negatives. I don’t just go to them with all of my problems, unload, and expect them to fix it.
That’s just not how this works, as far as I am concerned.
While I will often tell people that if you don’t doubt, then the miracle can’t happen, I also believe that telling your deity of choice about the good stuff and the bad stuff is how the relationship works. It’s just like a having a friendship or a relationship with a significant other: it’s not all puppies and rainbows and unicorn farts. Sometimes, you’ve got to discuss the bad thing going around. I’m jobless. I’m worried we’ll end up homeless if what the Hubby told me is accurate. I can’t fix my car to get to jobs outside of the Springfield area or to get the Hubby to any jobs that may open up in the next month or two. I don’t really have the money to pay the bills and I’m hoping that they really can’t shut off the heat in the winter time. I talk to my gods about my worries and my fears.
But, I tell them about the good things, too.
And I think that’s something that all divisions of faiths, from Christian to pagan, need to do. Otherwise, what’s the point in praying if all you’re doing is inundating them with the bad shit? Why would they want to have a relationship with a Negative Nelly?