Prayer and intent can be excuses for laziness

I’m starting to sense a pattern with certain people and groups in terms of how they view prayer and the intent for good. As you may have figured out by the title, I think they can be a great option for making people feel ok about laziness. Prayer is nice if it makes you feel more positive about things you cannot change, or gives you peace amid turmoil. But there are many things in life that we can work towards changing. If poverty bothers you, don’t just pray about it, go donate clothes for people to wear to job interviews. If hunger bothers you, volunteer at a food pantry. Sometimes prayer really is the only thing left to do. But the rest of the time, get out and go help someone. I really only have a problem with prayer when it is used as an excuse to sit on your hands. I think God gave us free will so we could use it to decide to help each other, not so we could sit back and expect him to make things happen.

Intent as a problem is harder to pin down and as far as I’m concerned easier to excuse. Intending good is wonderful. It’s the start of anything good you might ever do. But it’s only halfway there. You have to carry out good actions as well. And you have to be willing to really look and listen to where your actions led to make sure it was somewhere good. And the really tricky part comes next. If you see that your good intentions inadvertently caused a bad result, you have to change.

A story to illustrate:
Mice get in my house and I have to get them out. The standard kill trap rarely works right because our mice are too small to trigger it. The only traps that work are glue cards which mice can’t really get off once stuck. I used to trap mice on the cards then kill them by freezing, figuring for them it would be like falling asleep. I later learned that freezing is probably incredibly painful- the exact opposite of what I wanted. While I did feel extremely guilty, I then found out what I could about traps and learned that mice can actually be freed from glue traps by dissolving the glue in oil. My intent was to spare mice from suffering but instead I was probably causing it. I could have responded in any number of easy ways that ignored what I’d done and continued causing harm. But I wanted to fix it, at least for the future. So I did.

Intent for good is not an excuse for you to do whatever and be ok with whatever results. I probably should have done more research on mice and glue traps and stuff before any of what I did. Then I could have started with good intent and used it to good outcome. As it is I got a bad outcome and have since moved to a better outcome. We need to recognize the difference between intent and outcome because its a way to improve. Good intent is good. Good action is better.

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