I recently returned from what may turn out to have been a very important job interview. (Then again, it may not.) When my wife mentioned this interview to a friend via e-mail, the friend wrote back, asking if I’d received a priesthood blessing before I’d gone. I hadn’t.
I do not regularly, or even occasionally, seek priesthood blessings. Partly this is related, I suppose, to fundamental theological doubts and questions I have, doubts and questions which have in fact been with me for years and which I no longer really expect will go away in this lifetime (though I keep asking). These feelings are not particular to priesthood blessings alone, but rather are a piece of the larger back-and-forthness which characterizes my thinking about prayer. Two recent posts (one here at T&S, the other at Nine Moons) illustrate elements of my basic struggle in this regard: is praying with the expectation of actually being answered–not with “feelings,” but in the very specific way which the BoM, in particular, promises–dependent upon being in possession of a particular spiritual gift? That is, does God actually only answer the prayers of those He has chosen to make capable of receiving answers? Or, on the other hand, is praying without an expectation of literally being answered, with constant “Thy will be done” caveats, a sign of weak faith? Of being “chicken,” as it were?
I’m not going to try to untangle all that here. (I’ve tried before.) But regarding priesthood blessings, the problem is made more specific. Generally speaking, no one really considers a blessing to be an ordinary prayer (though it’s possible I treat baby blessings that way). Formal priesthood blessings, especially those with the oil and the joint laying on of hands, through which one seeks healing or confidence or clarity, clearly must be understood as prayers with expectations: not “just” communication, but the petitioning or accessing of real divine power. The fact that I rarely seek such blessings, even in times of serious illness or great stress, I suppose shows my true colors. But there’s more to it than that, I think.
When Melissa’s friend asked that question, and she relayed it to me, the first thing I thought was: who would I have asked? My family–my father and brothers, priesthood holders all–is far away. My home teacher? Nice guy, and a man of strong faith…yet, just not someone I feel close enough to for purposes of a blessing regarding a job search. Our bishop? Ditto. And so on down the line. (I might well have asked a close friend in the ward, a fellow teacher–but then, he lives 40 miles away, and it didn’t occur to me when I saw him at church the Sunday before.) Other factors creep in: is this man older or younger than me? What have I gone through with him? What has he said or done at church; has it impressed me or made me doubt him? In other words, I seem to have drawn, let’s say, “circles of intimacy” in my mind, and depending on the event more or fewer priesthood holders seem to me to be appropriate for such a task. When we’d lived in Jonesboro only a few weeks, and Megan had an emergency which required hospitalization, I called, at 11pm, a fellow who’d helped us move in and asked him to join me in blessing my child, and he came immediately. (He’s a parent; he knows how it is.) Yet now that I’ve known that man for nearly three years, and like him immensely, would I have sought him out for a blessing before I left for my interview? (Do I even believe that God cares that much about what kind of job I have?) I have to say, probably not. (This man has is own job worries, believe me.) But if my father, or one of my brothers, or one of my dear old friends from Washington DC or Utah–someone who knows all about my job struggles and other struggles, someone who has been part of all the ups and downs–had been around, would I have asked them? The chances are greater, anyway.
I have a friend whose wife feels unworthy to pray, and seeks blessings from her husband on her behalf weekly, perhaps even daily. I know people who turn to their bishops and home teachers for blessings regarding problems and concerns both large and small. And then there’s me: I bless my children, and my wife on occasion, and others as I am asked (which isn’t often). But for myself? Only rarely, and almost always afterwards, does it ever even occur to me that I might have or perhaps should have sought a blessing–and when it does, I also usually cannot think of a good reason for asking, and more importantly, a good person to ask.
Do you seek blessings for yourself? Often? When you do, who do you ask, and why?