Since my brother died on Christmas day 2022, I have not prayed.
He died of a terminal brain tumour, much too young. I am missing him already, so much. He was my older brother and we were close.
C.S.Lewis once wrote a book called ‘A Grief Observed’ in which he documented his grief journey. He memorably hinted that his previous faith and words were ‘a house of cards’. But Lewis made the same mistake that so many of us make. He assumed that everyone’s reaction to a death would be the same as his. At least that of believers. It is known to the best counsellors that almost any reaction to loss is acceptable, or at least, understandable.
As I say, in my case, I have stopped praying. This has been going on for about 40 days now. I remain a Christian. I’m going to an online church and I’m still attempting to practice what I preach etc. But I’m deliberately not praying. This effectively means, in all conscience, that I can no longer counsel anyone, including you, to pray. I have stepped down from my role of ‘actively praying Christian’ and am now simply a believer who is in active, conscious disobedience to the scriptures on this issue.
I don’t think people realize how hard it is to stop praying once it has become a habit. I was never a massive ‘I’m gonna pray all night’ kind of Christian. But I would pray, I think, pretty honestly, on occasion. So apologies, thanks, praise, grace before meals and petitions for others are all on hold for some time. Consider it a strike of a kind? Not in service.
So this is my public declaration of non-prayer. I could have done worse things.
I don’t think anyone has noticed. Family have largely been grieving too and it is hard for them too. I don’t think it has been noticed. It hasn’t been discussed. At the funeral, when I was supposed to pray, I simply pretended to.
You may ask a very obvious question. Why have you stopped praying then? But anyone with a familiarity with my writing will know the answer. I will spell it out for you in a short dialogue:
Q. Are you actually stopping praying because you believe that God is somehow partly to blame for the death of your brother?
A. You betcha.
It’s a little more nuanced and complicated than that, but that’s the main reason. God is currently getting a one star review from me. But I remain a believer.
Now, for those who loyally read my ramblings, you will be aware that I think the question of suffering is irresolvable. God didn’t give my brother cancer. But he allowed it. And we’re back to square one. Because there was a decision from the Almighty there. The suffering question cannot be resolved and it is part of the human condition to continually want it to be resolved immediately. But, as I have said before, the brightest, most famous… greatest intellectuals, theologians, scientists, writers or psychologists have been unable to satisfactorily resolve the question. No one. Not Descartes, not Dostoyevsky, not Freud. None. Nada. Zilch of them. So neither is this obscure writer is he?
God allowed it on Christmas day. I read in a book on grief that I am not supposed to inflict my “skewed theology” concerning blaming God for bad things in such circumstances on others. That is why I feel I am having to write with caution. It seems an unnecessary and onerous addition to add to the already heavy load of the grieving to me. It’s basically like saying, ‘If you are blaming God, don’t put that on me or anyone else. Sort your own crap out.’ Such things are not entirely words of comfort, but surely they come from a warm place, if you know what I mean.
So what of it? So what? One guy decides that to get back at God, he will stop praying. Who cares? God doesn’t need prayers after all, does he? Who gives a damn?
To which I reply, ‘If God feels that my prayers are entirely both unnecessary and undesirable… then he won’t mind if I cease to pray will he?’
If you believe that there really is such a thing as a war with God then I can tell you for a fact that, one way or the other, Christians have always been heavily involved.
Anyway, I’ve set out parameters for prayer to resume. I can be bribed back into prayer by the Almighty. Perhaps he is good at bribery along with theft? Of course I have not set those parameters out via prayer, but as he is a thought reader and otherwise invader of privacy, that is not necessary is it?
So, as you can see, I’m pretty sore with the Almighty. Not wise eh? Being as he could ‘allow’ further bad things to happen?
There is only one other power who I am even more angry with God than. It’s not people in general. It’s not the world, or the NHS. It’s not even the Government or the cancer (though I’m pretty angry with them too and not unhappy to include them in one sentence).
But say, for example, that there were a power which was not simply involved in my brothers death, but which also found the whole situation – condescendingly amusing, how would a human being react?
Q. Are you about to say you are more angry with the devil and his demons than with God? You can’t say that.
A. You betcha. And I just did.
Anyway, some of us mortals have to control our anger.
I don’t know how long this will go on for. There was a pastor a few years back who publically said that he would become an atheist for a year as a kind of experiment. By the end of the year he was a full-blown atheist and ex-Christian.
I will attempt not to escalate my now silent debate with God to levels which cause any harm to fellow human beings. Hey, maybe I learned the silent treatment from him?
I don’t see why others should suffer for God’s choices. Strikes and wars are resolved through dialogue aren’t they? I can still promote dialogue on earth, to resolve wars, as I’m talking with others so practicing what I preach in that. Just not dialogue with you know who.
Why Christmas day? I mean, it is a day which is supposed to be about life and birth and hope and even love. I bet the devil and his demons are still laughing at the irony of that… the violent gits.
Anyway, I’m going to have to be as independent of these massive invisible powers as possible for a season or two. I can’t be dealing with them at this time.
Besides which… I simply really miss my brother, despite the much-appreciated support of family and friends.
If you do care, I’m probably still in need of goodwill or prayer, if you’re so minded. Better still, you could buy me a coffee, as so few people actually do that.
Don’t you go dying on me too.