How does one pray? That was my starting point. I wasn’t concerned with silent prayer, but an out loud prayer which I had resolved to perform by myself in my apartment. I hadn’t prayed out loud for over a decade, but had decided that I wanted to break the streak. I was going to pray an honest-to-goodness heartfelt prayer–no matter how weird the physical manifestation of this desire felt.
“Should I sit? Should I stand? If sitting, can I be reclined?” I wondered. None of those options felt natural. “Ah, kneeling,” I remembered. “I could kneel. Yes, that seems universal. I will kneel at my bedside in a classically American nighttime pose of prayer,” I determined.
Leaning over, my elbows resting on the bed, I closed my eyes. My mind traversed all the greetings I could recall from all Christian prayers I had ever heard. “Dear God”, “Father”, “Our Father”, “God”, “Heavenly Father”, “Jesus”, “My Lord”, and a few others passed between my ears silently. But none came out.
Naturally, I was embarrassed by this speechlessness. It is a rare thing. I tried to rationalize and told myself, “Don’t sweat it. You’re praying the Lord’s Prayer in Greek when you read your homework. That should count.” But it doesn’t count. When I do that, I’m working on pronunciation, not speaking from the heart. Then I became a skeptic and thought, “This is bullshit anyhow. There’s no God. That’s why you can’t get yourself to address one.” But that felt more like a lie than counting the Greek thing did. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I couldn’t address God, Almighty God, the Creator, the Maker of heaven and earth out loud because I didn’t feel worthy of an audience with Him.
In seminary, as in most formal education, some classes have the word “survey” in the title. “Survey of (whatever).” Well, as I was kneeling there speechless, I surveyed my life and concluded that for the last 12 years or so I had been in the muck, in the mire, and been offending God. Physically, I would describe the feeling that overcame me as I concluded this as that of my heart imploding. Shoulders collapsing forward together. However slight the offense began some years ago, it culminated in my last job. I wasn’t (don’t) feeling guilty about nipples or alcohol or partying–that’s an entirely separate discussion. My feeling of unworthiness stemmed from the fact that that job fully highlighted that I had been living without purpose. Or for the wrong purpose (fame or money) which is the same thing. Here I am, a created being brimming with potential, and I have been living most of my adult life without regard for my Creator. And now it’s been so long that I feel like the gulf between us is too great. The worst part is that I know the end of the story and yet I still feel this way.
In any case, you’re going to get another post in a couple hours which contains a link to a speech I gave a couple years ago. It’s about 10 minutes long, but the audience in the room seemed to think it was alright, so you might too. More to come concerning prayer.