Saturday, June 7, 2008

How to Pray: Advice From a Non-Christian

My friend's three-year-old daughter who was recently diagnosed with leukemia, has started her eight-month course of chemotherapy.

Josie and I say a prayer for this little girl, her older sister, and her parents every night now. I'm not religious, but I encourage Josie to say prayers when there's something worth praying about. This is the first time we've prayed for anything in particular. All our prayers before consisted of "Thank you for..." followed by a catalogue of our family and friends.

A few nights ago, after we said our prayer for our friend with cancer, Josie added, "And the same for Mommy, too." We never prayed for me before that. I wonder why. I guess I wanted Josie to think about praying as a way to thank God or the universe for the people in her life, not to ask for favors. I've always been put off by people praying for things like a new car, a new job, or other self-serving wish lists.

People pray for the darnedest things - for their kids to get into a good university, for revenge on their cheating spouses, for a baby boy instead of a baby girl, for the value of their property to go up. Do people really think God should be spending time on this stuff when there are children dying of starvation, women being raped and abused, men killing each other on a daily basis?

After church one day, we drove home and found the perfect parking spot right in front of our building. That never happens. My father exclaimed, "Ah! God saved us a parking space!" I laughed, "I hope God has better things to do than find us a parking space." He chuckled as well when he realized how silly he sounded.

I say let's not crowd the prayer airwaves with silly, selfish requests. Let's save prayers for the really important stuff. Maybe that'll help us see what the really important stuff is.


Anonymous said...

Hey, Shin, it's your cancer friend Cathy here. I have read through your last few blogs about afterlife and prayer, etc. It's such a big topic. One thing that I found helpful in understanding my own faith background, (Christian) was by reading children's stories, specifically the Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis - himself an amazing Oxford English Literature scholar. I first read them in college, and found them so helpful that they later became required reading for my own boys, now 12 and 21. I think once you push through all the nonsense that people try to lay on God, it makes it easier to believe. At least it has been for me.

Love you.

Anonymous said...

Dear Shin, I am touched by your sharing that little Josie say prayers for the little girl. You are in my daily prayers too, I have never fail lifting you up. I have not been reading your blog as often now, just try to rest, tired. Tomorrow evening, my husband and my 3 children (5, 8, 11) accompany me for Pilgrimage. Remember I shared with you before that we are going away. I am praying to have strength, these few days my body just tired but I am not telling Harold as don't want him to worry. Will see onco when I back on 21st. You keep well and love you, my dear friend. God blessing be with you and family. Yvonne

Anonymous said...

There is this fab quote that always makes me smile when I see it, but for the life of me cannot remember the exact wording or who said it....but to paraphrase, basically it says how isn't it a coincidence that what you think God has planned for you fits entirely with what you want!
I was raised in a Christian household, not a strict one, but church on high days and holidays. I have to admit, the older I have become the more I have become a lot more cynical about religion. I know a lot of it is due to the use of God's Will........God's Plans........God had a hand in this...........
Years after my brother died of cancer, 3 days before he was 10, I was looking through all the sympathy cards and phrases that kept cropping up were God planned this, this was God's Will. Hmmmm, to let a child suffer for 8 years???? Then when Mum died...again it was what God had planned for her.....
I read about a Christian singer in America recently whose youngest daughter was run over and killed by her older brother in a tragic, tragic accident. The article was saying how God was kind and had a hand in planning this and only good would come out of it. This is where I am lost for words........accidents happen, children become ill, people do die......but to think it is all part of God's plan???? I can understand though people turning to God to help them through a crisis.
Oh this is all waffle!!! I don't see myself as religious, but I do have faith, faith in people looking out for one another, doing unto others as you would have done to you. Faith in the good people of this world.
Lots of love to you Shin
Sasha x

Anonymous said...

Dear anonymous, These are the very problems I have had with a certain fringe of Christianity that gets alot of press these days. My personal experience with cancer has led me to a place of understanding in the seeming conflict of God's presence and the experience of tragedy in the world. I talk briefly about the "cancer is a gift" nonsense in the blog I write to that you can click on. Cathy

Helen said...


I lost my mother when she was 41 year old. I lost my only sister who was 31 year old. Both with liver cancer. In 2004 I was told that I had liver cancer with 7 cm size of tumor on the right side of liver. Take care of it after one year came back the cancer which ending up with Liver Transplant! Now I am cancer free for one year and 7 months.

All in my life I do have up and down, but I never blam or angry at God. I am a Christian too why I had to angry at God when thing went bad?? How about many many good times that we are having or had?? Bottom line, we all going to die one day timly or untimely. Look around people die unfairly in some places. I do not understand why but I am not going to say that God did it. I am not dare to because God knows the best! I do not know that my cancer will be back or not but this is what I am praying.........."Not my will, thy will be done".

If I stay I am with earthly family if I go I am with the Lord. What I have to do is keeping my faith!!

Helen said...

See my blog at