It goes without saying that I like to express myself. I hear a sarcastic “tell us what you really think” a few times a week, and try to take it as a compliment rather than taking it in the spirit it is given. As the years have gone by and I’ve become less invested in getting my own way all the time, I’ve developed a habit that, like many of my habits, can be a little off-putting. If I’m involved in a discussion or situation in which my voice is the minority, I still say my piece knowing that the outcome of the discussion is probably not going to go my way. I feel better knowing that I haven’t kept my dissent secret from anyone, and I can go on my way ready to live with whatever outcome results. I think there is virtue in sharing what little wisdom I may have to offer, and I think that the conversation is more important than the outcomes.
Last night I had dinner with some friends with whom I can talk about anything, from work to music to vocation to tea, and over the course of our long chat last night the conversation turned to prayer. All three of us have degrees in theology, which sometimes makes it harder to talk about these topics – every comment about prayer has a million theological implications, and we waffle between tossing around terms with ease and being awe-struck and humbled by the act of trying to define that which cannot be defined.
We were talking about petitionary prayer, a subject I find particularly difficult for theology-folk to talk about. To the more snobbish among us it seems so juvenile, so lower-stages-of-moral-development. And to the realists among us it seems fairly unproductive: we ask for what we want, and God’s will sweeps forward on its path regardless.
Is the answer then not to offer our needs and wants to God in prayer? I don’t think so. If I believe it is worthwhile to share my wants and ideas with other people, regardless of the outcome, how much more worthwhile is it to share those with God, even if God’s will may not match our dreams and imaginings? Every time we share a piece of who we are, what we want, or what we believe, we deepen the intimacy between us and God. There is value in that, in the honesty needed to share ourselves, and in the communion that can only develop in the shadow of that honesty.