Today’s post is about something that I had to unlearn because I was not raised in an observant Jewish home, with Torah values. This is just my personal experience; I am not making any kind of blanket statement for anybody else.
In probably 1974, when I was 7 years old and in 3rd grade, I went to Sunday School at a Christian church. The teacher taught us little kids that there were good kinds of prayer and bad kinds of prayer. She explained to us that it was “not okay to pray for a red bicycle”. She explained that even though we might really, really want a red bicycle; this was a selfish prayer and it wasn’t a good kind of prayer. She taught us that a good prayer was to see that Johnny needed a red bicycle, so I should ask God to give one to him. We were then to make a drawing of something we would pray for.
I remember being confused by what I viewed as circular logic. Why would I ask for Johnny to receive a bicycle if I am the one who wants a bicycle? What if he gets it and he doesn’t even want it? I would feel so jealous if he got my bicycle! Maybe it is okay for me to ask Johnny to pray for me to get what I want and then he can tell me what he wants so I can pray for him?
And then I had to figure out what to draw. I decided just to draw a house, sunshine, and a cat. That was and still is my go-to drawing when I have to produce public art. I remember thinking that I needed to blend in and not draw attention to myself. In retrospect, those feelings are extremely weird for a 7-year old kid to have. I don’t know why I didn’t believe the Sunday School teacher or accept her doctrine. HOWEVER, it did get into my head and mess with my thinking. Many times, I meant to pray but stopped because I felt unsure about this lesson that prayers should not be selfish. This lesson became a barrier between me and my Maker – and it is a completely false teaching.
FALSE, false, false. False.
Skipping ahead to 2015… I have been tracking the bloodmobile online for almost a month. Twice I waited in line to donate blood and had to leave because there were too many people ahead of me and my time ran out. Once I waited 40 minutes before I had to give up. Then I went to the collection center to donate, but they don’t give the two free movie tickets. The center only gives a $10 voucher for Amazon.com. I considered it, but I wanted the movie tickets. I costs like $15 to go to the movies. The only time I went in the last seven months was the time I got a free ticket by donating blood. It’s too much money. I can’t afford it.
The lesson from my childhood has created a voice of guilt in my head.
This voice of guilt says, “Charity should be given without any expectations. In fact, if they reward you for donating blood, then it does not count as a good deed and it does not count as charity. If you did it for the money or tickets, then you are being selfish and you should make amends by refusing to accept the free movie tickets. You are a bad girl, Rivka, because you are selfish.”
That is what the voice of guilt says to me.
But it is complete bullshit.
I had to learn to ignore that voice and refute its’ teachings with Torah.
AND… this lesson can be extrapolated to include other situations.
And regarding prayer, God is my Father, my Abba. He totally wants to hear me go on and on about how I want tickets to the new ABBA show. Yes, He does! LOL. He totally loves it when we talk to Him, even if it is about stupid stuff. He wants us to talk to Him. (Source: Rebbe Nachman)
In conclusion, I heard the voice of guilt and decided to fight it. I donated blood and received… a free pass to the SOUTH FLORIDA FAIR! Woo hoo! Fried elephant ears and corndogs, here I come. Oooh, ooh, and I love that game where you throw a whiffle ball across the glasses to win a teddy bear. I love all the carnival games. So that’s the story. Lesson: there are no selfish prayers.
“A Jewish Lesson About Prayer.” is copyright © 2015 by 18mitzvot. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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