12 November 2013

Prayer before they start

Prayer before the sortie by bobmendo
Prayer before the sortie, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.
It's customary to offer a prayer to God before things. The most common prayer is 'grace' said before a meal. "Lord bless this food" or "Bless us oh Lord for these they gifts..." are standard. In Judaism, if the meal contains bread, we say, "Blessed art Thou, oh Lord our God, King of the universe who brings forth bread from the earth." A quick, and usually intentional "thank you" to the Creator. Good plan.

For others prayer is something done on the side of an arena or stadium. Their team is needing to sink the final two baskets or to score a touchdown on the final drive of the 4th quarter so that victory can be secured. The scene is replayed so often I wonder if God even notices it, but I'll have to admit He knows and notices everything. Still, the teams and their fans pray that God somehow will favor them with a win, and not a loss.

I remember the maxim, "There's no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole." War brings out the prayers in many. When bombs are flying overhead and the enemy is pursuing, where can a man look but up?

And I have no problem with people praying in any such circumstance. In fact, it's right to pray in all circumstances, isn't it? "Pray without ceasing" is the biblical admonition. According to Jewish tradition, a person should recite 100 blessings (b'rachot) each day! This is not as difficult as it sounds. Repeating the Shemoneh Esrei (Amidah) three times a day (as many observant Jews do) covers 57 b'rachot all by itself, and there are dozens of everyday occurrences that require b'rachot.

Our first thought in the morning, even before we get out of bed, is a prayer thanking God for returning our souls to us. (Modeh ani) There are prayers to be recited before enjoying any material pleasure, such as eating or wearing new clothes; prayers to recite before performing any commandment, such as washing hands or lighting candles; prayers to recite upon seeing anything unusual, such as a king, a rainbow, or the site of a great tragedy; prayers to recite whenever some good or bad thing happens; and prayers to recite before going to bed at night. All of these prayers are in addition to formal prayer services, which happen two- three times a day every weekday and additional times on Shabbat and festivals.

All that to say, there is plenty of occasion to pray. And prayer has to be more than sanctified thinking. It might start with that, but goes well beyond that.

It's actually verbalized. And it's humble and it's real. Like these young people in salmon-colored tshirts about to go out on the streets and talk to people about the Almighty. They are praying for God to lead them to open-minded individuals. They are praying that their spirits would be open to odd folks. They are asking God to give them wisdom and love. Not a bad prayer at all!

Prayer is really conversation with God, as Rosalind Rinker wrote in 1959, and I think her clarity is still valuable to us in 2013. Check it out here: Rinker on prayer

You can pray alone. You can pray with others. You can pray quietly or loudly. He that sings prays twice. Prayer is getting into and staying in conversation and thus relationship with God. Not a bad thing to do, even if your team is losing in the 4th quarter or lost miserably already. Prayer is about getting to know God, personally.

And He wants to meet you, and get to know you, and let you know Him. Prayer is the key. Silence, then humility, then conversation, then listening, then thankfulness. Not a bad formula.

Before you start the next thing on this computer, why not say, "God in heaven, please help me to listen to You and to get to know You personally." Pick up a Bible online or off your shelves and have a read. You might find the book of Psalms is the perfect place to start.

And let me know how it goes by commenting here, ok?

2 comments:

Bob Mendelsohn said...

The story is told of a young boy who was asked by his father to 'say the prayer' before dinner. The boy was intimidated as the many adult friends of his parents including his father's boss, Mr Robinson, were also in the room. He was, after all, not a performer.
Still, his parents encouraged him. He said, "I don't know what to say." They said, "Just pray like we do."

OK, he thought, here goes.

"Lord, why did you have to send the Robinsons to dinner tonight?"

pam said...

When I was the prayer leader at our old church people thought I had some special connection with God...lol. I kept telling them to not even use the word pray or prayer sometimes. I encouraged them to talk with God, a conversation that goes two ways, being mindful that one in the conversation is Holy, but oh so approachable. God and I chat back and forth constantly through the day....so lovely to ALWAYS have someone to talk with, to know you are never alone.