16 years ago today, I wrote this in my journal:
Why do I always procrastinate my prayer time? Am I afraid the Holy Spirit will convict me about something? Yes, admitting my wrongs to Jesus can be unpleasant, but I always rejoice in God’s grace afterward. Then why? The only conclusion I have is that I’m a sinner and therefore evil, and I still need to get closer to the Lord. The second I realize I’m procrastinating, I need to go and pray and let God examine and change my heart.
After reading Oswald Chambers, I started thinking about something: How come prayer doesn’t come naturally? I want to pray, but often I don’t feel like it and it becomes more of a duty than just quality time with the Lord. Prayer should be normal and spontaneous. “Lord have mercy. Change my heart.”
Yesterday the worship leader did the message and it was awesome. He talked about never becoming a lukewarm Christian and always striving for excellence. One thing he mentioned is that we should have close relationships with other believers who provide accountability. I’m not sure who to talk to, though.
I went to outreach again tonight. There were only about three people to visit. Me and one of the deacons went to visit a young couple, but the guy didn’t seem interested in talking. I want to do more. I don’t know what, but I want to do more.
I’ve been kinda depressed. Today I started reading The Kneeling Christian, and it’s kinda freaking me out. Jesus said that if we pray and truly believe, God will grant our requests. When I pray, I often ask for things like stronger faith and the courage to witness for Christ, but God doesn’t help. Is it because I don’t really believe? Why is my faith so weak? I don’t know, but I’m gonna keep trying.
— May 17th, 2015
Dear Former Self,
Why do you procrastinate your prayer time? Maybe because it’s boring! It’s not because you’re a sinner, and it’s not because you’re evil. It’s because praying sucks, and it never seems to work anyway (more on that in a minute).
This is a good example of how fundamentalist Christianity can damage a person’s self esteem. You’re actually a pretty good person (in the sense that you always want to do “the right thing”), but your religion tells you you’re evil and broken. So every time you do something that seems ungodly, you’re reminded that you’re a sinner.
Sure, you get to “rejoice in God’s grace,” but you’re never able to develop a healthy self image. How could you? You’re so awful that God had to kill himself, right? It’s a wonder any Christian has a positive self image, especially with verses like Isaiah 64:6 which says, “And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.” If the only good thing about you is the fact that God loves you, how can you ever really feel good about yourself?
Imagine, for a moment, a little boy whose parents taught him that he is evil. They tell him he never does anything right, and that he’s only able to do good with their help. They also tell him he is lucky they love him at all, and that he should be grateful they don’t just lock him in the basement. Would a child in that situation have any self esteem? Probably not.
But this is essentially what Christianity teaches. The reason you’re so frustrated and unhappy with yourself is because you’re taking the Bible literally, unlike the majority of Christians, who interpret the Bible however they want.
Once you realize the Bible is just another nonsense “holy book” written by religious fanatics, you’ll be able to cultivate a healthy self image again. It’s going to take time, though. Your beliefs are doing a number on you.
Case in point: You think it must be your fault that God isn’t answering your prayers. You poor fool. There’s no one there to answer your prayers. You’re blaming yourself for nothing!
The verse you referenced is Mark 11:24 which says, “Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.” Christians have added several caveats to that verse: your motives must be selfless, it has to be God’s will, sometimes the answer is wait, the answer is no because God wants to teach you something, you have to believe strongly enough, and so forth.
As you said, the you’re praying for things that would make you a better witness for Christ: faith and courage. Your motives are certainly selfless, and why wouldn’t God want you to become a better witness right away? What could he possibly teach you by ignoring this prayer? So naturally, given that you already think you’re evil, you suspect it’s your fault. You think don’t believe strongly enough.
Other Christians will tell you there’s some unknown reason why God hasn’t answered your prayer. But again, they interpret the Bible the way they want. You tend to take the Bible literally (as you were told to), and it says it right there in black and white: “All things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.” So you think you must not really believe.
No wonder you’re depressed! You’ve devoted your entire life to Christ, but no matter how much you “strive for excellence,” you’ll never believe as much as you think you should. What a complete waste of mental and emotional energy all this is.
— Matt, May 17th, 2015
This is part of an ongoing series called Letters to My Former Self.