Losing faith in the power of prayer
#1
Hello, I've been a long time lurker of this forum, but something has been bugging me lately so I wanted to make a topic about this.

One of my close family members used to go to ''charismatic'' masses often. Suddenly, that person started claiming that he can talk to God and started to deliver ''messages'' from God to everyone around him. The whole ordeal has brought a lot of misery both to myself and to the rest of my family. So we were forced to send that person to a psychiatric hospital where he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He was dismissed after 2 weeks, but stopped taking his medicine soon and now he's sowing even more misery upon everyone. That person won't work anymore, he's self rightous because he thinks he's a prophet and is barely even Catholic at this point. That person prays a lot, for hours and hours.

I must admit that I have started to feel very, very angry at God for allowing this misery to continue, even to the point of considering dropping Christianity altogether. Even though person is mentally ill, he still prays and I don't think God should allow all this.

This takes me to another point. I no longer think God intervenes directly in our lives. I think that it would primarily go against our concept of free will. For example, why do we pray for someone's conversion? If God's direct intervention converted that person, wouldn't that be against the free will of that person? Or what about God's will regarding our lives, how is the concept of God wanting something for us to happen not predestination?

Thus, I've sort of come to the conclusion that God's will actually needs to be done by someone, that God cannot go against laws He Himself made and directly intervene. I mean, it would be sort of like cheating. When it comes to prayer, basically, I think that praying to thank God for giving us the gift of life and the fact that prayer is pleasing to God are the only reasons for prayer. But still, I struggle with understanding why saying 3 Glorias is pleasing to God at all.

Anyway, sorry for the rant, I needed to get this out of my system.
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#2
If I can offer a suggestion that I am sure will be met with some resistance, I think you need to take a deep breath and stop trying to figure everything out, and for one simple reason - you will never figure it all out. It is sometimes unsatisfying, but God's ways are mysterious. We take it on faith that these ways work for the good of those who love him, but this is not always easy to see. The answer, in my own opinion, is to pray. Simple prayers like the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Jesus prayer, or simply repeat "Lord, have mercy." In the end, that is everything we need from God, His mercy.

The exact boundaries between free will and divine activity have bedeviled thinkers for centuries - and I might add - set many of those thinkers on the road to heresy. At the end of the day, only God knows, and, in His mysterious ways, has not chosen to reveal this information to us, so we just have to accept that. Again, pray.

Everything and every feeling is an occasion of prayer, even your anger. Regarding "3 Glorias" being pleasing to God, there is a true and a false way to look at that. If we turn to God in sincere humility and adoration and pray three Glorias, then that time spent in prayer is pleasing to God; the fact that we said 3 Glorias is basically immaterial. It is false, though certainly common, to think that 3 Glorias (or 150 Jesus prayers or 15 decades of a Rosary or 9 consecutive days or any other number of prayers) is some "key" that unlocks grace. Prayer and divine favor is not mathematical, not alchemical and not magical. There are in the end two main reasons to pray: to glorify God and to sanctify yourself. Whether we call this sanctification or theosis or deification or whatever, it is a synergy between God and man, and prayer, together with fasting, almsgiving and living a Christian life, are the chief methods for attaining it. The benefit is not that there is some mystical significance to saying 5 decades of the Rosary; the benefit is that you have spent 15-20 minutes of your day subduing the passions and directing the heart toward God.

Anyway, this is a good place to rant. Welcome!
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#3
It is hard to see how prayer works, but the way I see it is that each good and sincere prayer does good in the spiritual realm, and it always helps us. Look at St Monica: she prayed for her son for 17 years! And then Augustine became such a great saint even Protestants accept him!

So what was going on with those prayers for 17 years? We don't know, and we don't know why. Maybe the result of what happened to St Augustine in the 16th year was key in his becoming the particular great saint that he was. Maybe God saved St Monica's prayers to give St Augustine a huge burst of grace.

What we do know is that her perseverance in prayer ended in two great saints for God.

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#4
(07-11-2015, 03:02 PM)aquinas138 Wrote: If I can offer a suggestion that I am sure will be met with some resistance, I think you need to take a deep breath and stop trying to figure everything out, and for one simple reason - you will never figure it all out. It is sometimes unsatisfying, but God's ways are mysterious. We take it on faith that these ways work for the good of those who love him, but this is not always easy to see. The answer, in my own opinion, is to pray. Simple prayers like the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Jesus prayer, or simply repeat "Lord, have mercy." In the end, that is everything we need from God, His mercy.

Thanks for the welcome.
Well, I struggle with prayer in general because I am simply not that spritual. For me, it's more like a duty, I have a duty towards God, I don't really feel the need for the spiritual dimension almost at all. I'm more inclined to glorify God through actual actions. I know the part about the mysterious ways, but I can't accept it.
I still can't possibly accept the fact that this person is making people miserable while at the same time praying way too much in my opinion.

Here's an interesting article and I basically agree with it
http://winteryknight.com/2015/06/29/what...to-church/
Quote:The most important thing to understand about getting men interested in the church is that men are men. We are not interested in most of the things that women go to church for. We don’t like singing much, we don’t like praying as much (we would rather fix everything ourselves, and so praying is like a last resort), and we mostly read the Bible to find out who God is, so that we can make practical plans in real life to achieve real-world results. We don’t read it to feel anything, we just want to find something useful to do from it


(07-11-2015, 04:07 PM)newtolatin Wrote: What we do know is that her perseverance in prayer ended in two great saints for God.
Yeah, but you see lately I've been more inclined to think that St. Augustine came about by his own decision, not because of his mother's prayer. As I said, God converting St. Augustine would constitute the breaking of his free will. This is an example of the problem I'm struggling with. I'm beginning to think we are entirely free and that God very very rarely intervenes, if at all.
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#5
I see what you are saying about breaking St Augustine's will. I don't think God does that: I think His grace could be considered more like an invitation... oh, you can't make it because your car is in the shop? I'll get a ride for you...  Oh, you don't have the right kind of clothes? I can lend you something... etc., bit the person always remains free to turn down the invitation and the help.

And we see this with people who have been given all sorts of good things in life but they still become bitter and cruel, sometimes way more than those who suffered greatly and had very little! Our social philosophy tells us there must have been something missing to make someone chose evil, but that idea is more destructive to free will than is the idea that Gid will send grace to help people convert.

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#6
It sounds like you're losing faith in what isn't God, so if you're losing faith in that, good. That god can't save anything. The god you conceive of is a competitor with human freedom, and God is not a competitor but the very condition for freedom. God is freedom and power. Without God there cannot be anything happening whatsoever. Your god is Zeus, a figure floating somewhere, maybe invisible, but ultimately nothing much different than the flying spaghetti monster. Yes, don't believe in that god. Don't believe that god can answer prayers or cares to intervene.

Prayer isn't saying words, sitting in a meditative position, or saying one is praying. It isn't spending hours alone. A person can spend hours in such "prayer" and actually just be fueling their own psychosis.

Real prayer is revealed by its fruits, the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Look those up. Where you see those, then you'll know prayer is authentic.

And your anger at God, have the courage to look deeper. You're angry because God doesn't intervene to prevent suffering. Ask yourself where else in your life you have seen that, whether that injustice has hurt you before, and you will find the true origin and the true object of your anger. You can project it onto God because God is psychologically safe; He won't smite you for holding such opinions and feelings about Him. Discover what is psychologically unsafe in you, and you will find the first step for healing for your anger.
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#7
Hello,
I sympthazise with your posting because I also often ask myself seeing very religious people if their religiousness really is benefical for the health of their souls. I think that the problem is generally not the religiousness but the way how they practice their religion. Nonetheless it seems always strange to me seeing someone praying, going to mass, maybe even being a monk and being...well...insane. I also have the feeling : That should not be so.
(07-11-2015, 02:40 PM)TommyGun Wrote: (....)This takes me to another point. I no longer think God intervenes directly in our lives. I think that it would primarily go against our concept of free will. For example, why do we pray for someone's conversion? If God's direct intervention converted that person, wouldn't that be against the free will of that person? Or what about God's will regarding our lives, how is the concept of God wanting something for us to happen not predestination?

Thus, I've sort of come to the conclusion that God's will actually needs to be done by someone, that God cannot go against laws He Himself made and directly intervene. I mean, it would be sort of like cheating. When it comes to prayer, basically, I think that praying to thank God for giving us the gift of life and the fact that prayer is pleasing to God are the only reasons for prayer. But still, I struggle with understanding why saying 3 Glorias is pleasing to God at all.(...)
I would like to make two points : 1.The human will is not as free as God's will. A totally free human will would be arbitrary. An unmoved mover without being the fullness of being or only any kind of being is simply impossible. We are always acting according to our nature and we have not created our nature alone. Agere esse sequitur ( acting follows being ). So, it is not necessary to protect our free will against God because he moves our will as a first cause according to our nature. We are real second causes but dependent on the first cause.

2. God does not change his plans caused by our prayers. He is beyond time and for that reason he foresees in an eternal now our prayers. So it is not right to say that he is cheating or something like that. He does what he always wants to do.
Quote:Well, I struggle with prayer in general because I am simply not that spritual. For me, it's more like a duty, I have a duty towards God, I don't really feel the need for the spiritual dimension almost at all.
To be honest : For me it is practically the same. I am not spiritual. I do not like to pray. It is a duty without any kind of beneficial outcome. I also usually do not like to go to mass. I do not know what is wrong with me but that is the way it is.

Joseph de Maistre in "Les soirees de St.Petersbourgh" writes that in such a situation one should say to God : God, I am so bored. I do not want to pray. It does not help me but here I am.

Honesty is always  a basic virtue.


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#8
I have read this thread and I find a few things concerning so I will just toss them out there.

First, Joseph de Maistre is not a Catholic theologian from what I can see so I would be careful following his advice.  Second, are you bored, or not concerned with prayer, because you are not getting what you want or you are not receiving anything from prayer? If so I would say your belief in God is misplaced. Prayer does not guarantee that we get what we desire, in fact, sometimes we do not and that is for our, and/or God's, benefit. The stories of Job and Jonah, among others, come to mind. Supposedly Mother Teresa spent much of her life in spiritual dryness. Third, as far as looking at other religious people, let it go. Other people are called to their vocation whether it monk, nun, priest or basic run of the mill family member. Their vocation is between them, God and their confessor.

Whether God does of does not change his plans based on our prayers is irrelevant, since God created everything He can do as He wishes. And, just for completeness, the Bible does give example of God changing His plan based on human requests.

http://www.drbo.org/chapter/02032.htm

Finally, honesty may very well be a virtue and so is obedience. My suggestion to you folks is to instead of viewing prayer and Mass as uninspiring is to focus on obedience. Just do it.  My bet would be if you can just motivate yourselves to small acts of obedience, weekly Mass, very short prayer, or prayers throughout the day, blessings would follow.

Pray
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#9
Something I've read before but most recently in Overcoming Sinful Anger is that God always answers our prayers, it's just that sometimes (maybe even frequently) He says, 'No."  And, I think, sometimes, we do not open our hearts enough to receive His answer, whatever it may be.
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#10
Like someone else said, pray whether you feel like it or not. The only way to really sense Gods presence in your life is to build a relationship with Him through a constant conversation. Pray when you are at your best and at your worst,when you feel like it and when you don't. May I also suggest that you be honest with Him. He knows you intimately anyway, don't be ashamed to have a frank conversation with Him, as long as you aren't being deliberately blasphemous or something.


Over the years I have little interior prayers and conversations throughout the day. I also address our Lady, my favorite saints, my guardian angel, etc. Just keep praying, not looking for some sort of dramatic charismatic fireworks, visions or something like that. All that could happen, but you ought not go looking for it.

After having prayed the Jesus prayer and the Office pretty faithfully for awhile now I can assure you that fidelity to prayer despite dryness has its own rewards, you really sense that God is with you somehow. Sometimes, you'll be rewarded with an event, a word, an image or a chance encounter that lets you know somehow that a prayer is being answered. You have to be open to it.  My favorite of the Optina Elders Barsanuphius said :

"Prayer, fasting and vigilance over oneself, that is, the guarding of ones thoughts and feelings, make us conquerors of the enemies of our salvation. The most difficult of these three works is prayer--- an eternal virtue which, as a result of practice, becomes a habit; but right up to death prayer requires motivation and, consequently podvig ( like spiritual struggle)  Prayer is difficult, since it opposes our ' old man', but it is also difficult because the enemy rises up with all his strength against the one who prays. Prayer is the insinuation of death to the devil...,,"

It's a struggle, don't ever get the impression it's easy, but it can become a habit.

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