Saturday, September 26, 2009

Pondering Over Prayer

I was noodling something over in my head the other weekend while I was gardening. I was going around in my head about it. I took a breath and prayed into the exhale “God, please give me clarity.” At the end of my breath a bird dropped out of the sky. Landed two feet from me. Dead. Like it had been kicked out of a nest. Only it wasn’t a baby and we weren’t under a tree or near an eave. This isn’t the clarity I had in mind. In fact it confused things even more. A dead bird? What kind of clarity is that?

It reminded me of a writing competition from the place where I’ve taken a few writing classes: Richard Hugo House. The competition was around “Answered Prayers and Other Tragedies." The topic caught my eye: how many times does what we long for end up to be a tragedy rather than a blessing when we get it?
I struggle with how to pray. Like should one be very specific? As in "Dear Lord, would you please intervene with Client Cranky Ass and give him major diarrhea. And car troubles. So he won't have time today to check in with me on his majorly difficult project. And then could you maybe write his major report for me, through me? Without any little mistakes because You know he is such a nitpicker. Really, did You have to make him such a pain in the Ass?"

Or, do I just go like "Hey God, I'm pretty stressed out about Mr. Client's project. Please see me through the day." Alright. That was just a rhetorical question. I know the answer. If I leave it to God, He'll come up with something majorly more impressive than a case of diarrhea and a broken radiator. Probably a sick mother out of town or other difficult family emergency. Or He'll teach me a good lesson about trying to be more focused at work and let me take my licks. He's fair that way.

But my point here, and I do have one, is I think it's better to be as indirect in prayers as possible. It gives God a chance to really Wow you. And I am intrigued by those who say it's OK to be really specific in your prayers. Like if you need two hundred and thirteen dollars to cover the mechanic's bill that you weren't expecting it's OK to pray for just that amount. Then you can be knocked on your butt when you open the mailbox the very day you have to pick up your car and find a check for two hundred and thirteen dollars on the insurance bill you accidentally paid twice because you are such an unorganized bill payer that you overpaid it. (not that I ever do such things. I'm just saying...) Well, that's not exactly the kind of example I was trying to get at. But do you know what I mean?

I get uncomfortable when people pray out loud for really specific outcomes. Even like "God, we implore you to remove my friend's stage four cancer. You are the Miracle Man. It's in Your power. We need Your intervention here. Now." I mean that kind of prayer really makes me nervous. Because He doesn't always intervene as asked. And then it feels like He ignored the request. Just looked the other way. And I don't want to believe in a God like that. So I guess I'm answering my own question: better to be real general and let Him Wow, than to ask Him for a specific outcome. And then be open to see whatever happens. And that if the outcome is not as I would have loved it to be, to trust that He's got something better up His wide white flowing sleeve for my friend than I could have ever imagined.

I can't even remember what it was I was praying for clarity on when that bird dropped out of the sky to my feet. But at that moment it broke the cycle of endless noodling over something that was just getting tangled in my mind. It certainly got my attention. He really is a wise one, that God.

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