Fake Prayers, Fake Selves: The Honesty of Ordinary Time

Fake Prayers, Fake Selves: The Honesty of Ordinary Time October 25, 2018

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“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked [Bartimaeus].

The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.”
Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

From Mark 10:46-52
Gospel reading for Sunday, October 28

When was the last time you said what you really wanted out loud?

Not the things you’re supposed to want, or think you want, or what you were told to want, or what the Fake You (the one still trying to impress someone) wants.

What do you want?

What if Jesus walked into your coffee shop right now, pulled up a chair, and asked you what you wanted? What would you say?

Would you pull out a list of what your dad wants for you or what your wife expects from you or how everyone imagines success looks like or how everyone wants you to envision your career or religion or marriage or spare time?

What if Jesus took your hand and said,

“I know what they want you to want.

“But if you’re really quiet in your soul, friend, what do you want Me to do for you?”

Do you know what you’d ask Jesus?

Fake Self at a Coffee Shop.

I’m always tempering my prayers to Jesus. Instead of yelling at Jesus like Bartimaeus on the side of the road, so loudly that the crowd tried to hush him up, I sanitize my desires to try to protect Jesus from the real me. I perform Very Holy Prayers for what I “should” want, hoping that Jesus approves of the Very Holy Self I’m curating.

If I’m not faking what I want, then I’m toning it down to make it more manageable. If I ask for something extravagant and I don’t get it, that would be so embarassing for God! So I play it safe. I either ask for very holy things or very small things. Parking spaces. “Patience.” Maybe even, if I’m feeling bold, a new job – but definitely in the safe field that I’ve already chosen from the safe list I printed out in college.

The False Self is bogus more than bad.
Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond

That subconscious performance is exhausting. Faking our way through a list of “shoulds” takes a toll on our bodies and souls. Living in the shallow end is safe, but that safety costs a hell of a lot.

What If You Were Brave?

Every time that I’ve been brave enough to dig into my gut and, like Bartimaeus, yell to Jesus, “This is what I want!”, it’s changed my life.

Not because I got what I wanted, but because I finally knew what I wanted.

I met my deepest self.

For me to be a saint is to be myself. Therefore the problem of sanctity and salvation is in fact the problem of finding out who I am and of discovering my true self.
– Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

It’s all fear, yeah? Fear all the way down.

We label our wants and needs “bad” so that we don’t have to look at them, and it has helped us survive in the past so we hang on to it. We’ve survived by suppressing what we love and who we are because we know that our real selves aren’t going to be quite as boxed in as the selves we’ve curated for the world. We know that our real selves are non-binary and a little wild, which means that our real selves are a threat to how well we fit into the world.

Knowing what we want is dangerous, because once we know, maybe we’ll have to toss away years of careful self-creation that is for everyone else in our lives but never for us.

Knowing what we want means talking to our deepest self, and she is wary and strange. We’d prefer that self stay hidden not just from other people, but from ourselves, and especially from God.

My loves, Jesus will sit gently with our Fake Self all day long. But He would much rather that we stop sending it as an emissary to the coffee shop. Jesus asks us these questions – “what is your name?” and”what do you want me to do for you?” – not because He doesn’t know the answer, but because He wants us to know the answer. He wants us to take a leap of faith to risk our stability to go deeper and see what’s there. “What good is it to gain the whole world but lose our soul?,” He asks us. What good is “safety” or “success” if the self that you’re stuck in doesn’t feel like home?

What do you want Jesus to do for you? What do you really want Jesus to do for you?

Can you say it out loud?

But What Will Happen Then?

I don’t know what will happen when you speak your deep self out loud.

Maybe it’ll take a few years to even know where to look. Maybe for a few years, you’ll just answer – I don’t know. That’s still a better response than throwing up a Fake Self, and it’s a wonderful start.

Maybe you’ll discover some scary things right away. Maybe you’ll encounter changes. Maybe some “little deaths.” Perhaps some horrifying discoveries.

Or maybe it’ll be the very beginning of diving down so deeply into Christ that you start to learn that where your deep self ends and the deep, deep love of Jesus begins is the same place.


I don’t know what will happen next for you. But I do know that the world needs your deepest self. The world will be so much better if you are fully you. Don’t go through life passing up joy because you’re living other peoples names. Don’t go through life trading your wild, unboxed self for the safety of a made-up you.

I’d encourage you to meditate on this passage this week. Journal, memorize, experiment with the Ignatian exercises, go for a walk with Jesus. Listen to Him ask you, gently but persistently –

What do you want Me to do for you?

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