Last week, I talked about life as a quest and how this analogy reminds me of how easily I can become unintentionally condescending. This week, I want to talk more about how the quest can help move me towards greater connection in my community and to see other options that will move me away from condescension.
Non-condescending prayers and grace are a promise that the quest will not be taken alone. The best stories with the best quests always include friends, family, a villain or two or three or four (or more), moments of success and learning, and a slew of emotions (joy, envy, heart-ache, deep sorrow, longing, fear, revelation, and insert whatever emotions you can think of here).
Prayers are inherently a promise that we are not alone. Non-condescending prayers are a promise that God is present and that the one who is praying is a partner in the quest that the prayer is setting you out on.
What that partnership will look like will vary with each prayer. Maybe that partner will be that friend who, just as the cup, Chip (from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast), pops up where you least expect him to because he’s secretly been traveling with you. Maybe that partner will be the friend who stays at the “home base” and makes sure that everyone at home is taken care of while you’re out on the quest. Maybe they’ll be Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, at your side throughout the whole quest and whose love pulls you through the darkest of times.
The prayer is a call to action because it is the start of the quest. The quest starts because something is being sought. The prayer as a quest is a recognition that even if we have a very specific answer being sought, what we find as the answer will most likely look nothing like what we anticipated it would when the quest started.
When I discuss prayers in this way, I find that my mind is of two natures. On the one hand I love the open ended nature of the prayer that the quest requires. I love the opening of possibility and the togetherness that is inherent in the prayer as a quest. One the other hand, I catch myself almost daily saying “if I could only know the whys of life or know for sure what my purpose in life is I would be happier.” If I dig a little deeper I realize that I am searching for confirmation of what I already believe, I am searching for something that will tell me I am right. Therefore, I am so uncomfortable with the quest because it is inherently telling me that I am probably not right and I should embrace that. (I can’t even delete the word “probably” in that sentence, that is how much I really want to be right. Ha!)
What I’ve learned as I’ve explored prayer, grace and condescension is that the power of the prayer lies in the quest. When we say “I’ll pray for you,” we WILL be put on a quest. If I say “I’ll pray for you” in a condescending way, I will still be put on quest. By praying, the quest is started and my connection solidified. If my prayer was condescending, quite likely then, I may end up as one of the villains on the quest of the one for whom the prayer was said.
I stated in the first paragraph that viewing prayer as a quest helped me see other options that move me away from condescension. One way it has done this has been to remind me of the beauty and excitement in the unknown. If I can embrace that I may be wrong about what I or another person needs, then my prayer will no longer be condescending. The second way it has done this is that I have learned that I don’t have to say “I will pray for you”. If I think my prayer may be condescending, then I can choose to do or say something else. For instance, it may be best to just state what I hope for that person. Another option is to say nothing at all.