Sunday, February 17, 2013

Testing again...

Well... this dang blogger app suddenly stated arguing with me, and now Im trying again...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Language of Prayer

I have a little book here called "The Language of Prayer."  It's one of those books you receive as a gift but would rarely, if ever, consider buying for yourself.   A slim little volume bound with pretty crumpled paper, filled with less than a hundred quotes from "Great Thinkers," meant to inspire and enlighten.

Like most people who receive this sort of book, I opened it and thumbed through it in less than ten minutes.  Then I put it on my bookshelf promising myself to give it a more serious look later, before promptlty forgetting it. 

The other day, I ran across it while looking for something else and I flipped it open again.  It's not really my kind of book.  I tend to like a little more meat on the bone of my reading.  But having recently gone through Bible classes at church, I guess I was a spiritual reading mode, and I figured it wouldn't hurt to read some inspirational quotes.

In this book, they had an excerpt from Robert Fulgham that struck me.  He told a story of a man he saw everyday sitting in the park from one to two in the afternoon, quietly talking to himself.  Overcome with curiosity, he had asked what he was doing. 

The man answered that he was praying the alphabet.  He explained that he would sit there, for an hour a day, reciting the alphabet over and over, leaving it to God to arrange the letters in a proper prayer, figuring that He could handle it and understand. 

A quick internet search finds various versions of this story, mostly involving young children who want to pray.  Not knowing how, they recite the alphabet, the only thing they know.

Personally, I've  never believed that there was a 'right' or 'wrong' way to pray.  I've always suspected that there are almost as many ways to pray as there are people who do so. 

There are times when it is easy.  When everything is going well in your life, it's the simplest thing in the world to express gratitude to God, and when sudden pain or trauma vistis, it's perfectly natural to reach out to God for help, strength and guidance. 

Of course, there are other times when it's more of a challenge.  When life has worn you down, when your brain has gone numb, when your hope and faith seem to have been misplaced like a rarely worn pair of shoes.  It's these times that it becomes more difficult to pray. 

These are the times that we rely on the more ritualized forms of prayer.  We recite the Rosary, the Lords Prayer, the 23rd Psalm, or any number of familiar words and forms.  Usually, these are enough to get us through, but, at times, even these can fail to bring comfort. 

But are the words we use to pray really so important?  The Bible tells us that God knows what we have need of before we ask. (Matthew 6:8)

Perhaps, at the darkest of times, when the clouds have seemingly rolled in to stay, when it is difficult to discern what is right from what is wrong, when thoughts become confused and muddled, it would be best to keep our prayers simple.  To sit quietly, peacefully, and reverently reciting the alphabet, trusting that God knows what you need even if you don't.   Trusting that He will find a way. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

On Saturdays, and the occasional Sunday after church, I work the cash register in a flea market where I have a booth. Recently, I was helping a lady who had picked up a teapot that had been in my booth for well over a year.

"You don't remember me, do you?" she asked.
"I'm afraid not, where did we meet?" I asked as I was writing down the sale.
"Right here... you had just brought that teapot in. I fell in love with it. I thought it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. I didn't have the money with me, I was waiting for a paycheck, and you told me I could buy it at a discount if I came in that weekend. But I didn't."
"Well, things happen... but you have it now," I answered.
"That weekend, I blew my entire paycheck on crack."
I'm afraid that my salesmans banter failed me at this point.
She continued her story...
"I was gonna come the next weekend, then the next... then it dawned on me. I wasn't ever going to be able to get it. I wasn't ever going to be able to have anything..."
Three weeks later, she had entered rehab and began a long and painful battle with her addiction.
After she had left the facility, she had changed towns to avoid old acquaintances and patterns. Today, she had driven back to visit her mother, and see if she could help talk a nephew into dealing with his own addiction. On a whim, she had turned into our parking lot, and was amazed to see the teapot on a shelf.
"I had always remembered that teapot. It was the most wonderful thing I'd seen... It's like a sign," she stated. "It's like somebody is telling me that I can have good things. I can have my life back... I needed that right now."
I still couldn't think of anything to say. I certainly didn't remember this woman, or our first meeting. As I took the lid of the teapot off to pack it in a box, a piece of paper fell out. I unrolled it, and looked at a note written in my own distinctive handwriting.
"Ma'am, can I ask your name?"
After she told me, I showed her the note that said she could have the teapot for $20 if she came back.

I carried the box to her car for her and after I put it in her trunk, she spontaneously threw her arms around me in a hug and said, "Thank God for you."
"Thank God for you too," I replied, and we both went about our business.

Later that night, as I was saying a prayer that I have repeated so many times that it's routine, I suddenly stopped at one phrase....
"God, if I can ever be of any use to you, I am your willing servant."
Had I been used by God that day to deliver a message to a woman who had fought a hard battle?
I can't answer that with any real certainty, but I like to think so.
Now, as I am going through a rather trying time in my own life, I find myself looking for messages, and I think I've gotten a few. But this experience reminds me that He can speak through anyone, and anything, and at anytime.
He can talk to us in church, as we drive a car, through the actions of a stranger... He can even use a teapot in a flea market.
All we have to do is be willing to listen.