This week, I have something to say specifically to Christians/anyone who believes in prayer. After my Willful Ignorance series seemed the best time to do it. I know not everyone who follows this blog is religious, so feel free to catch up with me next week, if you wish. With that content warning, here is “That Prayer I Hate.”
It happened when I was in Bible School, when I opened up to my senior class about my Depression diagnosis.
It happened on a mission’s trip with the same group a few months later, when I shared around a campfire that the time zones had messed with my medication timing and I was feeling very rough.
It happened at a prayer meeting in a friend’s basement when some “kind” soul decided to out me as being mentally ill so they could pray for me.
It happened in church in front of the whole congregation when I chose to stand for prayer after a sermon about discouragement.
A group gathered around in a flurry, hands were laid on me, and the loudest individual of the group passionately launched into that one prayer I have grown to hate:
“Oh God, open our eyes to the pain around us.”
“Open our eyes,” they prayed. “Help us see when others need us,” they begged. “Make us more sensitive,” someone added. “We are willing to do your work!” someone else chimed in.
And then, every single time, they walked away.
Do you want to know the percentage of people who have gone on to actually help me with my pain after praying “open our eyes”?
Exactly zero percent.
That’s because “open our eyes” is the ultimate Christian/praying person’s cop-out.
Have you ever seen the “women are so mysterious” meme on social media? It’s a groaner, because it’s a little too relatable:
I feel like I’m trapped in this meme every time someone “open our eyes”-es me.
Them: Open our eyes to pain around us, Lord!
Me: I just told you I was in pain-
Them: Make us aware of those who are suffering!
Me: I’m suffering! I just told you I was suffering-
Them: We want to do your work…
Me: Oh good. Because I am desperate here, my mental illness is so ba-
Them: So show us, Lord…
Me: I’m right here, Guys-
Them: …who we can reach out to…
Me: Me! Pick me!
Them: …and what we can do for them.
Me: I’ve got ideas! A whole list! Please, I’ll tell you all about what I need-
Them: Amen! *walks away patting self on the back*
The last time this happened to me, I bowed my head because I was desperately trying not to laugh out loud. It was that darn meme all over again. My prayer mob and its leader mistook my posture for crying, which is probably for the best. Next time, though, I’ve decided I will ask them to stop. (Or maybe just duck under their arms and run away mid-prayer. That sounds like fun.)
I am no longer interested in making someone feel good about themselves because they can craft a pretty prayer. I’m over it.
If you have genuinely prayed “Open my eyes,” in private with God because you genuinely want to become more sensitive, see people better, and help them; thank you. God bless you. And don’t worry, this post is not about you.
If you have ever prayed “Open my/our eyes” over a person after they have just told you about their problem, this post is for you. For the love of all the saints in Christendom, stop it! You were just told about someone who needs help. You just saw them crying. What are you waiting for, an angel bearing a scroll with gold ink? A rocking trumpet solo?
The three biggest empty phrases that I know are:
“How are you?”
“If there’s anything I can do, let me know.”
and “Open our eyes, Lord.”
Here’s an idea: instead of asking God to open your eyes, how about you open your own eyes, starting with the person right in front of you?
Instead of asking God to open your eyes, how about trying any of the following:
- Make sure they have been introduced to the pastor or counsellor on staff. Make that introduction yourself if they haven’t.
- Get their phone number or email so you can follow up. Get updates so you can continue to pray and celebrate the answers to prayer.
- Smile, and acknowledge them next time you see them. (Oh yes, I have had people pray “Open our eyes” over me, and then never speak to me again, even though we saw each other frequently.)
- Take them to coffee and just listen.
- Ask about the situation. Ask what they need.
- If they have a practical need, let the appropriate church teams know. Or help them yourself.
- Write an encouragement note.
- Send flowers or candy or secretly rake their leaves or shovel their snow as a surprise blessing.
- Do pretty much anything except sit back and wait for a divine light to shine a beam down on another person. Love the one you already know about.
There is a principle of stewardship in Christianity. You need to be responsible with what you have been given before you get more. I am quite confident that if you steward the opportunity to love the hurting person right in front of you, God will show you another. However, if you walk away from the opportunity right in front of you, don’t expect to get any more Holy Spirit hints on the matter.
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