(Disclaimer: this is not a thoughtful discussion on religious beliefs.)
I haven't prayed seriously in a long time, but when Deepak Chopra sent me an e-mail with the subject line: Does God Listen to Prayers? I thought, hey, I want to know that. Usually I approach God like this: I get up from a chair and my knee hurts. I say, Oh, god. That is shorthand for Really? It has to hurt just to get up? My lazy default expression to many events is, Oh, my god! Sometimes, if I look around my house and feel reasonably good and all my kids are okay, I say, Thank you, Lord.
I had very formal and intense religious training at the hands of the Pallotine nuns, the German strain. I know how to sing the Catholic mass in Latin. I have no idea why I talk to God in this lackadaisical way. Do I think there is a man/woman sitting on a throne up in the clouds who hears me and looks down and thinks, Huh, look at that. She thanked me so I will reward her with some peace and happiness? Yes, that's what I probably think in my crude brain stem. But wait - that can't be, right? A throne? Up in the clouds? That makes no sense even to a seriously religious person.
Ever since Google, Skype, the Cloud, etc., I believe in miracles, I believe even more miracles are in the pipeline. I believe that God is so tired of our uninteresting demands and whining he/she is allowing humans to make their own miracles. In the near future, we will be able to jiggle our brains and manipulate our abilities and emotions. Unhappiness will be a thing of the past. We will live in a sappy, giggly uninteresting world. There will be no more writers because if you are already happy, why write?
Deepak's e-mail said the reason we don't get answers to our prayers is that (I'm paraphrasing here) our intentions are muddled and unfocused. Unanswered prayers are the product of a mind that is restless, shallow, conflicted, or unable to focus. Guilty as charged. But wouldn't you think that God has some sentimental affection for the restless and shallow among us who are unable to focus? Wouldn't he just say, Oh for goddsakes, that woman is never going to be able to focus, just give her whatever she asks for. Does she even know what she wants? Of course she doesn't. Just give her something she asked for in the past. She might even figure it out.
God actually did that for me and I did figure it out. All my adult life I had yearned for a newspaper column where I could express all my ideas and throw them out to the world and utilize the tyranny of my discontinuous mind. * I was certain that I had some good ideas. From time to time I published op-ed pieces in The New York Times and Newsday, but I yearned for a regular gig. Once Mort Persky, the editor of SHE, a sister publication to Playboy, asked me to write a column on sex. “Mort, I screamed, I was raised in a convent boarding school. We put on our clothes under our nightgowns. I can’t even type the word “sex” without looking around for Sister Francisca to come and slap me.” “That’s exactly why I asked you,” he said. It was only recently that I figured out that this blog was the answer to my prayers. I get to talk about anything and it's a regular gig.
*Richard Dawkins’ essay in The New Statesman, Escaping the Tyranny of the Discontinuous Mind is about something serious but applies to me in a silly way.