I do know what you mean. It's frustrating to send prayers up and feel as if it goes no farther than the ceiling. I've totally been there. There are some things that I've been praying for for ten years now. I see incremental changes that have been spread out over years instead of hours, days or weeks, but yeah, it basically sucks to have to persist in something that long. I can tell myself that it's all so very very "character-building" - and maddeningly enough, I think it is character-building - but the process blows when I want it now and I want to run things, and I know what's best for me and others and just want God to quit dragging his feet and get it done - "as if," Anne Lamott says "it would be so much skin off his nose."
But there's a Jesus way of doing things, and prayer falls under that. Talking about it is naturally going to piss people off. But I don't think Jesus came to be all sweetness and light - he pissed people off so much they crucified him.
He's pretty clear about repentance and prayer and how to go about getting God's attention.
Much as I hate to say it, I do think there are hoops to jump through, protocol to pay attention to, attitudes to adjust in order to approach God in prayer - at least to get the unique things that Jesus promises. It's a "it's-not-what-you-know-but-who-you-know" kind of situation, which should be hardly surprising, since we're talking about Jesus. And that's just what pisses people off.
I know it repulsed me for the longest time. Didn't like the whole idea, so I dabbled in other things. But if a person wants what Buddha has to offer, then they're free to go chase after him. If they prefer Shiva or Mohammed, or think it would be way cooler to go Wiccan, fine. But if a person wants the benefits of what Jesus offers (which are so extraordinary it's fairly hard to swallow to begin with), he's very emphatic about how to get it. An initial, whole-hearted commitment to him (which means taking the good with the bad) is just the kindergarten part.
He's very bald-faced about how hard it is to get God to give you what you want, as a matter of fact. He tells his followers that when they pray, they should be like the friend who wakes you up in the middle of the night pounding on your front door. You yell out the window STFU! He keeps pounding on the door. He needs bread and wants you to give it to him. No not tomorrow, now. Finally, just to get some sleep, you get out of bed and throw him some bread to make him go away. He said that praying for stuff is like being the widow who pesters the judge incessantly day and night about her case until she just plain wears him out and he gives her what she wants. Some picture. Nice, isn't it? Most people just say screw it, and I don't blame them.
Why does it have to be like that?
C.S. Lewis said something extraordinary. "Prayer doesn't change God. It changes me."
So Aubrey, maybe you know all this already. Maybe you actually jumped in the water and swam around and swam around and treaded water and finally got discouraged and tired - maybe you were euphoric at first at the dazzling simplicity and relief you felt and then were gradually misinformed about being a Christian by well-meaning but ignorant people - I know I was. Maybe you were surrounded by Bible Belt bitches who acted pious on Sunday and stabbed you in the back on Monday. I was. And you were let down again and again at crucial moments. So I completely get it. And today, without the very real comfort of the "hocus pocus" holy spirit part, I'd say screw it too. I did say it for years. The problem is, following the philosophy of Jesus is just plain impossible without the holy spirit to inform it and flesh it out. And yes, that part of it is extremely "hocus pocus," no joke there.
In my opinion, the sincerest of people trying to be like Jesus and admiring what he said like it's some kind of "good" set of rules and rituals to follow but not committing to his sovereignity, not accepting the mystery of grace, not letting God give them his supernatural love and strength for those convictions and refusing to admit that they are fallible and need the internal guidance of the holy spirit - that's what leads to atrocities. That's what leads certain politicians (giving lip service to the idea of Christ without the genuine humility and repentence and acceptance that has to go with it) to go around acting like God and invading countries and killing thousands of innocent people in the name of Christ. It's awful, it's deadly.
1. While sitting at your desk, lift your right foot off the floor and make clockwise circles.
2. Now, while doing this, draw the number "6" in the air with your right hand.
3. Your foot will change direction.