I'm not going to identify the person I have in mind as I write this post. First, it doesn't really matter because I think most of you know at least one of these types of religious people. Some of you, like me, used to be one of these types of religious people!
Anyway, I was speaking with this very devout person yesterday - not about religion, mind you, but about the day in general - and couldn't help but notice a good half-dozen references to prayer this person made. And they just struck me as petty. Embarrassingly so. Such things as "I prayed for the rain to hold off until I got home," "I prayed the traffic wouldn't be bad so I could get to where I was going quickly," "I prayed the weather man had missed the predicted high temperature and it wouldn't get so hot," etc.
Obviously this person's concept of God is that of a person minutely involved in every minute detail of life. And obviously of a God who can be cajoled into serving one's individual needs and desires - IF it is according to His will, of course. Some cups don't pass away, obviously.
I'm not poking fun here, because back in my Christian days I prayed more than my share of what I now consider to be ridiculous prayers. I think that blather about "a personal relationship with God" really permeated my thinking. I'm sure - like the person I mentioned above - I never thought of my prayers as manipulative and silly. Just imagine a God receiving millions of these prayers every second of the day and trying to pull all the necessary levers to bring everything about without totally destroying the very fabric of reality!
Before I finally reluctantly gave up on the concept of a personal God altogether I had reasoned my way to the position that nature is a system and that system was not - could not be - designed around one's individual happiness.
I don't know that I've ever been in a Christian home - including my childhood home - that didn't have the Serenity Prayer hanging on a wall somewhere; and yet most praying believers never fully come to grips with the concept of simply praying for the grace to accept certain things that are just the way they are.
Do we sometimes underestimate our ability to adapt to life's most trying circumstances? Do we need a god that will help us do that or bend reality around our desires?
For me that represents a very defective understanding of religion.