Giving up on prayer
Having been raised in a non-religious household, prayer was always an enigma to me. To this day I don't feel I've ever prayed properly. I'm Jewish — both parents are — but for all intents and purposes my father is an atheist and my mother herself grew up in a home sans religion. They divorced when I was around 6 or 7. At about age 10 I attended a couple years of Hebrew school but lost interest and quit. Yes, a Hebrew school dropout.
In Judaism, prayer is very structured and scripted. It must be done three times a day facing a certain direction reciting certain scriptures in Hebrew, etc. I never learned the protocol yet I have prayed since I was a small child in my own small way. Though I respect tradition and see the importance of following a certain set of rules to accomplish a certain task, I never understood why prayers couldn't simply be accepted in stripped down versions bereft of pomp and restrictions. Why isn't a pure emotional outpouring as valid as a robotic, recurring routine?
The created crying out to the Creator.
Over the decades I have pleaded, begged, reasoned, pondered, questioned, and cried a million and one tears during prayer. I'd always try to start a prayer by giving thanks for what I already have fully aware that it's not about asking for favors or bargaining. All I've ever really needed was a bit of help to get my head above water or a lightening of the load. A divine boost or a some sort of "wink" from God reassuring me that I'm doing just fine and things will be alright. On the contrary, I cannot remember ever feeling better after praying. I have come away from each attempt at reaching out in much worse shape then when I began. I have found prayer to be emotionally draining and an exercise in futility. It's been an extremely slow realization. God of course works on His own time clock. I have read that prayer is not for God because God needs nothing. Prayer is for the benefit of the one praying...but I have never experienced benefit.
There are many a Christian whose default response would be akin to 'just give your life to Jesus and you'll live happily ever after.'
(Long pause for effect)
Sorry, but at the risk of offending many — I've never been able to swallow that pill. Not just because I'm Jewish but because I've seen with my own eyes that God really chooses not to intervene. Millions in concentration camps, Soviet gulags, prisoners of war, kidnapping victims, and the people in the airliners on 9/11 surely prayed for their very lives but their prayers fell on a deaf ear. This is clear evidence that prayers are not always answered. Of course people will adamantly disagree claiming God has in fact answered their prayers on many occasions. That's all well and good for them but this has forever eluded me. It's simply never happened.
He has already provided us with a planet to live on, air to breath, water to drink, food to eat, and brains to reason with. The rest is up to us.
One conclusion I've come to is maybe He has in fact answered me...by not answering me at all. That's the answer. Silence. The "answer" is — you're on your own. You have been provided the tools to solve your own problems.
I guess I've been too dense or stubborn to understand the lack of response as the response itself. I continue to struggle with this theory but maybe there's validity to it. Maybe not. It's all very perplexing and taxing so I've just stopped. There was no real conscious decision. No formal announcement with fanfare. One day when I had the desperate urge to pray, I simply decided I did not have the energy and chose to abstain. I gave up. In a way it was a restful decision. I spared myself an emotional episode.
By no means am I at ease with any of this. It's now one less source to turn to and yet another hope for help that's evaporated. In fact, I feel a slight upsurge of loneliness since refraining from prayer. I will most likely return to God and prayer in my quirky little way although I don't know when. I can only hope, in His infinite mercy, that He will accept me as I am with warm open arms.