Prayer, it can sneak up on one. For years, I used to think praying was only the formal, fancy language of church. Even at times when I could be more casual about it, it was still a conscious, deliberate attempt to communicate. Rather like the difference between the way you speak to a work colleague, compared to the way you speak to a friend. Either person, the words were consciously chosen, very deliberate in the use and phrasing.
Even the content was deliberate, for one didn’t want to offend God; after all, he doesn’t want to be bothered with those of us who have bad thoughts, have done bad or malicious things, who picked on their younger brother or fought with their older brother. No, He didn’t want to know that I was mad at mom, or uncertain about my friends. And god forbid, that I would pray about anything emotional, or unsettling- He certainly wasn’t interested in my views on girls, and families, and is it ok to think that Krista is kindof cute? No, nothing like that, that’d all be baaaaaad.
Later, I learned some things, as I continued to work toward a more reasonable relationship with God. I was shown, by many, many people, that God is around us, in us, and the reality of His perfect acceptance of me, with all my flaws and quirks and imperfections, that none of those mattered as much as my willingness to accept him, to allow him into my life and heart, to allow him to save me.
I was shown, that prayer can be casual, it can be in normal, everyday language, or sometimes in no language at all. Sometimes, kneeling to look more closely at a flower, to hear a child more clearly, to pick up the book dropped by the passerby- each of these, and so many more actions, can be prayers in their own right. For God is in us, around us, and He hears the actions as much as the words.
Music, too, became a prayer for me. As I struggled to learn some basic guitar chords, singing in groups of other kids, singing in the car, singing at random moments, all of the music became a prayer as well. The choice of music, of song, was sometimes as deliberate as choosing a prayer from the handy-dandy inspirational booklets you can find. I would search through the songbooks, through the hymnal, through the record collection, and find just the right one, for this moment.
So, without knowing I was picking out a prayer, I certainly was. For, again, God hears it all, He knows our hearts without the words; and that is a wonderful thing, because who among us can speak so clearly with our mouths, as we can in our hearts and minds?
With growth, with learning, with the additional responsbilites of family, work, little league or soccer or scouts, with yard work and writing and computers and friends, gradually, prayer became supplanted in my life, replaced with things that really don’t matter. The faith was there, the belief unwavering, still the church, still the alter service, but the prayers, the meaningful interactions, that was slowly leaving.
Mostly, that was inadvertent. It wasn’t until 2000, 2001 that there was a conscious and deliberate attempt to drive God away from me. I became aware then, that more and more, when I would listen, God was speaking. I, on the other hand, I didn’t want to hear that message. Lynn would pass his word, as would mom, as Merle did too. But I, I know better, I am much, much smarter than they are, and even than God himself is- I knew this, certainly.
No, I didn’t know that at all, but was desperately trying to run from something I wasn’t ready to hear- that God was indeed answering me, he was answering questions I didn’t dare ask, that I was afraid to ask.
By 2004, my running was as fast as it could go; as I ran from god, so too, I ran from life and love and Lynn and family, and still, the voice was there; calm, certain, always loving, infinitely patient- He would wait, no rush, take your time; I’ll be here when you’re ready, I’ll be listening when you call.
And, the darkness became overwhelming. There was no hearing now, no prayers possible, I was sure of that. No how, no way, for despair was so deep in me, so consuming of my being, that there was no room for anything else.
My thoughts during that time, were the exact opposite of prayer, they were of darkness, of worthlessness, of futile hope and shattered dreams. Petulance, and immaturity became my skill, because if I didn’t like the message, I would run from the sender, and the messengers.
Foolish, foolish me. Because there is no running. There is no hiding, there is only a temporary illusion of getting away. The facts tend to come out, as the saying goes, “Truth will out.”
So it does, always, eventually. And what a blessed, blessed relief that is. Prayer is back, praying in so many forms, so many ways, so many words. Feeling the presence again, of that wonderful holy warmth and light. Prayers, unknowing prayers through all of the darkest times, all of the cold night, and without realizing it, praying the whole time.
I used to believe that I could do without, that I didn’t need praying, or church, or God. Silliness, to think that now. Silliness then, but unacknowledged, not even in the deepest, most remote corner of my heart.
Can’t run from it, not anymore. Prayer, in all the forms and manifestations that I used to know, is back, and like the connection with a dearly loved wife, it’s back with a vengeance, and growing fast. The more I am conscious of it, the more it grows, each thought a drip of sunlight, a drop of fertilizer, a drink of rain. Everything conspiring to make fertile the heartfelt prayers I now can claim as my own, rejoicing in them.
Smiles, and laughter, and tears and heartbreak. Loneliness, and sadness and distance, as well as sharing, growing and loving; exploring, sensations and the lack of them, missing the kids, wishing they’d be quiet- all these, and so much more, all prayers.
The songs, the music too, is back- once again, in music I can communicate, in writing I can express it, and in speaking I can shout it. Maybe not as clearly as in my heart, but it’s all there, and the beauty, the overwhelming, awesome beauty, is that I don’t have to be clear.
God, he knows. God knows, and that’s all that really matters.