Tuesday, October 09, 2007
The Best Conversation
I was fifteen years old in a Baptist Church Wednesday night meeting. We youth sat in the back, waiting for the thing to be over. I fell asleep and then heard my name called by the preacher.
Startled, I opened my eyes and asked “What?”
“Will you pray for James?”
My friend Darla was snickering beside me. The preacher said, “Let’s pray.”
I leaned over and whispered, “Darla, what’s with James?”
“He’s very sick, Robbie. He has to have a surgery.”
“Really?” I couldn’t believe our friend was hurt and I didn’t know.
Everyone in the small church remained silent for a long time. No one was praying. I sighed, martyr-like, and concluded that I would have to be the most spiritual person in the room. Again. I would begin praying. No one else was.
Out-loud I said, “Father please help James.” As I continued asking for help with the surgery, I heard the other teenagers around me giggling. I couldn’t believe how unspiritual and immature they were. “In Jesus name, Amen.”
The pastor rang out, “Yes, Amen.”
Everyone stood and started milling out chatting and laughing.
I looked at Darla. “What is your deal?”
She laughed and told me, “Two things. First James is on a trip. He is not sick at all. Second, Pastor King asked us to pray silently.”
I was furious and embarrassed and made my way out amongst the kidding of the other teens. At the door I ran into Mr. Thomas, a dad of one of my friends and a jokester himself.
“Robbie,” he said to me in a loud Texas accent, “If I thought praying out loud would’ve gotten us out of here quicker, I would’ve done it before you.”
Laughter erupted again among the church folk. I sulked.
I have been aware of the concept of prayer all my life. In elementary school, I learned the Lord’s Prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep” and “Rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub.” When we ever returned from a trip in the car, Daddy would always say, “Thank God for a safe trip.” He would pray before dinner sort of, in a passive way, saying, “Lord knows we’re thankful. Let’s eat.” In my teens and twenties, the legalistic years, I often prayed to show others how ultra-spiritual I was. (Like the story above.)
But sometime during the last fifteen years of my life, I have come to really understand that prayer is much more than reciting a memorized ditty or listing things to get or people to be blessed. It is a conversation between a person and the Best Friend anyone could ever have. So, for years I have worked hard on praying as unrehearsed as I could. Just pouring out my heart to the King of Kings. In doing so, God has developed in me such a love for Him. The kind of easy friendship you have with someone really close to you. During the time my mother struggled with cancer and then after she died, I remember yelling at the top of my lungs at my Father in heaven. I was so angry. He could handle it. After my son was born and struggled for life in the NICU, I remember sobbing and praying with moans. God held me tightly. When I met John and found that love would be a part of my life, I used to dance, literally dance in my room at night and pray thanksgiving to the Matchmaker of all. Prayers filled with my words have become a natural part of my existence.
But life is cyclical and at forty-five, I find myself enamored with prayers that others have written. I start every day with a prayer by John Stott that I have memorized. It seems to be all inclusive of praise. I have been part of a twelve step group for about five years and their 3rd step prayer is fabulous. Recently, I found a Celtic prayer that I love. (See below for all of these.)
I still pour out my heart to the Lord, as well as laugh with Him and plead to Him to take care of others. He is like this imaginary super hero that is not imaginary at all. Super God is worth talking to and listening to. Just takes practice and a bit of faith. Makes my life so much fuller. Do you know any great prayers that help you connect to the Father, Son or Holy Spirit? I would love to hear them. In the meantime, take a moment and read my three favorite prayers. The Joy Giver of All would love hearing from you.
Prayer by John Stott, a British evangelist: “Good morning, heavenly Father; good morning, Lord Jesus; good morning, Holy Spirit. Heavenly Father, I worship You as the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. Lord Jesus, I worship You, Savior and Lord of the world. Holy Spirit, I worship You, Sanctifier of the people of God. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen. Heavenly Father, I pray that I may live this day in Your presence and please You more and more. Lord Jesus, I pray that this day I may take up my cross and follow You. Holy Spirit, I pray that this day You will fill me with Yourself and cause Your fruit to ripen in my life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, three persons in one God, have mercy upon me. Amen.”
3rd Step Prayer from 12 Step Groups: “God, I offer myself to You to do with me and build with me as You will. Relieve me of the bondage of self that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy power, Thy love and Thy way of life. May I do Thy will always.”
From a Celtic Prayer: A Prayer in ‘The Middle Years’ of Opportunity
“Lord, help me now to unclutter my life, to organize myself in the direction of simplicity.
Lord, teach me to listen to my heart; teach me to welcome change, instead of fearing it.
Lord, I give You these stirrings inside me. I give you my discontent,
I give you my restlessness, I give you my doubt,
I give you my despair. I give you all the longings I hold inside.
Help me to listen to these signs of change, of growth; to listen seriously and follow where they lead through the breathtaking empty space of an open door.”