The messiest prayer ever

Hi God,

It’s Gordon. Again. Um, you know my deal. Of course you do; I’m just saying.

Hmm. Okay. I’m the worst. I mean, I know I’m not the worst; I’m exaggerating. But seriously, I am the worst at some stuff. Definitely. All the little details I miss. Definitely not a detail guy. I would say I’ll try harder but I’m 53 now and we both know I’ve said that many times before. I might just be the sort of person who’s pretty sucky at certain kinds of detail-oriented work and related responsibilities. My shit is definitely not squared away. I know that.

So. Sorry about that I guess. Can we just move on though? Cause I’m getting kind of depressed thinking about it. On to bigger stuff.

And I guess the biggest thing I need to say is that I don’t have any idea if you actually exist or not. And a lot of the time I kind of feel like maybe you don’t.

I know I know. I agree with you. It makes me sad too.

But look, if you are in fact out there somewhere, I wish it were more obvious. Lots of other people seem pretty convinced though. Either on the God team or the no God team, but they seem sure. What are they seeing that I’m missing? But you know it takes a lot before I commit to actually saying I KNOW something. That’s just the way I’m wired. But I kind of think that’s on you a little. It’s a little bit on you. It’s my personality type. I’ve got to think some of that is on you for making me. Or I guess I’d say for making the kind of person that I am a type of person that people can be.

If that makes any sense.

To be honest though, right now, I’m too tired to think about your existence. Whatever. Can I just talk with you like in the old days? Just kind of hang out and chat? If you’re not there this still totally works for me. I like talking to myself. I’ll just sub in for you. And if you are there – listening – even better.

So how am I doing? An honest assessment? REALLY honest this time?

I don’t even know. I’m not doing any of the churchy stuff right now. I mean I go and everything. Maybe twice a month? But I just sit there mostly. Pew sitter. Probably I should do more but oh my God I just really don’t like the churchy stuff right now. I tried really hard to like it for all those years. So if that’s where I’m missing you, that I should just get more involved with church again, I’m gonna need some help. Motivation or something. But unless you like hit me on the head with a brick and make it really obvious, I think I might be tapping out of the church thing for awhile. I might hang out with the Quakers. Do some wandering. Maybe some writing.

Here’s the thing though. And this is THE THING. I never got over you. The thing that gets me is the idea of you. The idea that you exist and you love us and we matter in this universe. The idea that human beings matter beyond our small existence here on the third planet from Sol is such a beautiful idea. That idea just kills me. Devastating. I want it to be true so bad. It really is my favorite idea of all time.

So here’s what I’d like to do. It’s kind of a favor I’m asking. Can I just hang around on the edges of your stuff for awhile? I don’t need to be anyone important with an official title or anything. If I could just be near the edges of the stuff that matters to you. If I could just groove on the beauty of the Cosmos and the idea of you. Maybe talk to people sometimes. Not church people. Not that there’s anything wrong with them. But just regular people. Write stuff sometimes or talk about you with regular people who are also wondering about things like I am. Try to do nice things in your name, maybe every day, to say thank you for my life?

If I could just do that stuff for now instead of the churchy stuff, I think I’d do a lot better with that.

Just if you wouldn’t give up on me. Because I haven’t given up on you.

Ugh. Suddenly I hate everything I’ve said. Forget all of it. Pretend I didn’t say anything. I just want to take a nap. I want to close my eyes and not think about any of this. Except I do like thinking you might watch over me while I sleep.

Would you?

Okay. I’m heading for the couch.

Goodbye then, from your wayward boy.

For now.



  • Culturalsavage

    I feel this. I live this. You are not alone on the edges of God’s stuff.

    • Dave from Phila

      Ditto without limitation.

  • Ashevillian

    I wish I were God—because then I could say that God hears you.

  • Kenny Park

    “Try to do nice things in your name, maybe every day, to say thank you for my life” …

    Sounds like church to me. 🙂

  • PaulNotTheApostle

    Gordon, just to play with words a little bit, do you have any doubt that there’s a “ground of existence” or an “ultimate reality”?

    • Gordon Atkinson

      The idea of a higher mind behind reality sits well with me. No causation behind reality does not sit well with my intuition. Classic Aquinas, right? Some kind of cause. The question of what the cause is behind the causer does not concern me.

      But of course, that leaves a lot of room for possibilities that don’t fit with theism. Hostile creator. Deist creator. Or maybe we’re just no more important to the higher mind(s) than bugs are to us. Kind of cute. Probably won’t go out of your way to kill one. But definitely not figuring much in the scheme of things.

      • PaulNotTheApostle

        So, it sounds like possibly your doubt has more to do with God’s nature than with God’s existence?

        Here’s another question your post raised for me. Why do humans need to “matter” beyond merely existing? To me, the fact of our existence – apparently, we are actually necessary from some point of view – is an unassailable, no-faith-required kind of “mattering” that would be hard to surpass. Obviously, mileage is going to vary on something like this, but “figuring much in the scheme of things” seems awfully much like just a human idea to me. A speck of dust floating somewhere between here and Andromeda is also apparently necessary.

        • Gordon Atkinson

          I’d say it’s an emotional need more than an intellectual one. If you unpack it, it falls apart logically in a lot of ways. Probably comes from growing up in a very typically Christian worldview where we are adored by God.

          • c moore

            If no higher power cares about me, so be it – I think. But emotionally, I really want a higher power to care about those whom I love, and those who are suffering so greatly, and those who feel that no one loves them….This post – wow. So very, very close to how I feel. Except that I actually like the churchy stuff, even when my belief is so extremely shaky. And the singing still pulls me in and makes me cry sometimes.

  • Jeff (no, the other one)

    Small things with great love — do them.

  • Mark (MN Lutheran)

    Gordon, I really appreciate this post. Wow, am I ever relating to it. (Played hooky this morning, in fact, to avoid having a lot of the day burned up with a service, potluck, and congregational meeting of unknown duration.) Culturalsavage is right – you are definitely not alone in this.

  • txredd

    This reminds me of another prayer you wrote down a long time ago. I don’t have any specific memories of it, just that reading it made me cry because it could have been me writing it. I copied it down into a notebook I was keeping of things I was reading that mattered to me. It’s definitely in a pile of stuff somewhere, or maybe in a box of stuff. I’ve thought of it several times, and wished I could find it again.

    • Gordon Atkinson

      If you can think of any clues about that other prayer, I could find it in the rlp archives and repost it in the new rlp archives at But I’d need something to go on. Even a single word, if its not one that is in too many other essays.

  • Robert C Deming

    Gordon, you belong in prison. Come with me to Connally on a third Saturday , 10-2. You won’t have to say anything. You can sit in the corner if you want and just watch if you want. I can pick you up on my way. You will be able to write for a week about those four hours.

  • Rachel Barenblat

    Thank you for this post, Gordon. I needed it today.

  • Eoin

    I feel that I am there with you.

  • Scott Nellis

    Gordon, there are people that just have the words to faith that most struggle to find. You have those words. And I thank God that you’re still writing them down.

  • Scott Nellis

    Sorry for the big-ass picture. I thought I was uploading a profile pic. Feel free to remove that. 🙂