I was watching a comedy show, and it was hysterical! I said out loud, “Now that’s funny; I don’t care who you are!” I was alone in the room. So, who was I talking to? Had I finally lost my last marble?
Somewhere there is a list of people who should not – under any circumstances – give spiritual advice. My name is near the very top between Buffy the Vampire-Slayer and Pee Wee Herman.
Having dispensed with that disclosure, I should like to chat about prayer; at least prayer the way I do it. By the time I am done, I have no doubt that the saintlier among us will mob my front lawn, demanding nothing less than my summary extradition to a rocky, uncharted island without food or drink.
Prayer, in my thinking, is a vital spiritual activity for all people; but I haven’t always felt that way. Being so important, you would think that someone who knows how to pray, would instruct someone who doesn’t. But that wasn’t the case in my up-bringing. I guess they assumed I knew.
So, I dutifully mumbled, “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures,” all the while having not the first idea why I had to be shown how to lie down. [As a nine-year-old, metaphors were not my strong suit.] But I said it not knowing what it meant or why I was saying it.
Back then, I modeled my efforts after the adults about me. I so wish someone had said to me, “Lucky, to pray just means to talk. Except in this case you’re talking to God.” That’s it?! Pretty much. Oh.
Thus, I was convinced that prayer was a solemn, ritualistic affair, complete with stuffy formalities and honorifics. Prayer was to be filled with unusual words. [Not being Amish, I didn’t use words like ‘thee,’ and ‘thine,’ and ‘art’ in daily conversation.] My supplications were generally a disappointing blend of monotony and uninspired piety; more recitation than communication; artificial and contrived.
But, prayer was a duty, and dereliction meant risking God’s displeasure. Even in the face of that looming threat, I finally realized praying in the fashion I had been shown simply wasn’t for me. The blunt fact is I saw prayer as a dreaded, daily obligation. Someone once remarked that prayer “can be a steering wheel or spare tire.” In my case, it was more like a flat tire.
Since I didn’t want to see myself as a fraud – and knowing I wasn’t fooling God for a minute- I stopped praying altogether. Better a heathen than a hypocrite.
My awakening occurred in my workshop some years back. I tripped over something, and reflexively looked up and said, “I’m trying to walk here!” playfully blaming God for my own clumsiness. Then, a staggering thought: Did I just pray?!I paused, stunned at my breath-taking audacity to speak so to Him.
But then, why not? Does my God not laugh? Does my God not have a sense of humor? Can He not tell when I’m joking? I had been taught – and I believe – that my Creator loves me [us]; not a merely now and then love, but an each and every moment love. He’s all in for me [us.] In a loving human relationship, can you not tease and joke? With your best friend, you can talk about anything; no limitations. [Now I might hasten to add: friends though we be, He’s the Creator, I’m not, and I never blur that distinction.]
From that day forward, I set out on – what was for me – a path of unusual prayer: just talking to Him: Petitions, gratitude, thanksgiving, anger, and… playfulness. [I should add that I never try to tell God a joke. “Sir, have you heard the one about…?” “Yup.”] Well, of course he’s heard it!
He even knows what I think. Hmm. But if He knows which of my thoughts are for Him, I need not preface such thoughts; there’s no need for me to address each of His envelopes; He’s well able to sort them out. If I had to announce that my next thought is God-directed, it would be like sitting in Heaven’s office and hear, [Beep] “You’ve got mail!”
Prayer betokens a relationship with our Creator, and, although I am certain God can work through folks who don’t pray, in my view it would open up far more opportunities if they did.
Even if you’re angry with God, especially then, pray. Let your communication be stoked with Hell’s own fury, set about with profanity if you have to … but tell Him. Trust me – It’s nothing He hasn’t heard before. The Father of us all will take it from there. In a nutshell: Any dialog is better than no dialogue.
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