My Problem With Prayer

Really? You prayed for me so I can come back to this?

Aside from Tony Soprano, some serial killers and most Deltas, everyone loves their mom. In fact, you can hate any and every thing from kittens to your own kids, but nothing would garner the type of response a person would get when admitting they hate their own mother.

Anyway, everyone loves their mom. But, not everyone has a mom who everyone loves, and I happen to be one of the people who do. I was aware of this even before she first fell ill—I’ve (half)jokingly mentioned many times that my friends like my parents more than they like me—and the avalanche of love and support she’s received has reminded me.

Much of this love and support has come in the form of prayer. People praying for her, praying with her, and even suggesting special prayers for situations like this. In fact, tonight I searched for “mom” in Gmail and looked at emails and Gchats I received around the time people first found out she was ill. Every single person who contacted me mentioned something about prayer.

While this has definitely—definitely—been appreciated by my mother and the rest of my family, this situation has reinforced the disconnect I’ve always had with prayer in general and prayer specifically for ill people in particular.

Now, I’m (obviously) not a theological scholar. But, I do know that Christianity, Islam, and Judaism all offer their true believers some form of an afterlife. And, in each case, the afterlife is a much, much, much better version of Earth.

If Christians, Jews, and Muslims believe this to be true, why pray for a sick person’s health to get better? I understand praying for their souls and salvation if they do happen to pass away, but if whatever comes after Earth is an unfathomably awesome version of all the best things we experience here, why would you want someone to get better so that they have to stay on shitty ole Earth a second longer than they have to?

Interestingly enough, this disconnect hasn’t altered my prayers in any way. I’m a Christian, and I believe in Heaven. I also want my mom to get better, and I’ll continue to do what I can to make sure that happens. This includes prayer, which may or may not help—the murky waters of God’s will is another theoretical pickle, but that’s another topic for another day—but what’s the harm in doing it anyway?

But, if I truly believe what I say I believe, wanting my mom to get better is a selfish want. An honorable and socially acceptable want, but selfish nonetheless. Perhaps this is where the disconnect occurs. Maybe I’m missing something, but if Heaven exists and if I believe Heaven exists, all this prayer for my mom is just me, in a roundabout way, praying for me.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)