Monday, July 16, 2007

Overheard

Back in, oh, probably March, I was hanging out with the Item after a closing shift at work, as I sometimes do. Conversation got a little intense, as it also sometimes does, and I became struck with a feeling that we probably needed to pray about something. Even though the Item and I don't have exactly the same perspective on the whole Jesus/faith thing, he has made a fairly regular appearance at Bible study in the past. Even though I knew our praying there sometimes struck him as a little foreign, I also knew that he does have his ways of trying to make contact with God.

Rather tentatively, no doubt, I asked him then if I could pray for him. I really wanted to pray for him. The thing is, I have a very difficult time praying out loud. I think (although the jury is still out on what God thinks, I suppose) I do my best praying either by writing down the actual prayers in a journal, or else in drawing or painting or otherwise creating something visual. Oddly enough, I have the hardest time putting words together when trying to address God in the presence of other people. Still, I tried it.

After I had finished, the Item said, "I feel like I should reciprocate." Then he just started talking. He talked about the things I had brought up as concerns in my life, and reiterated the things I was hoping for. But he wasn't talking to me. He was talking to God, I guess. I had never heard anyone pray like that.

Of course, prayer is supposed to be between the pray-er and God, and so third-party evaluations seem somewhat invasive or something, but I was so struck by the way the Item had just prayed that I couldn't help saying, "Wow. That was one of the coolest prayers I had ever heard."

Fortunately, the Item didn't really seem to know how to respond to that, but after a minute he said, "I do have a question. Why is it that in Bible study, some of the people just keep saying 'Lord' over and over again? Are they afraid He's going to forget they're talking to Him?"

I had to laugh. I've heard other evangelicals poke a little fun at this before, but I've never heard someone like the Item do so before. "Yeah," I said, "or maybe it's so we don't forget we're talking to Him. Here's another thing like that that bugs me. 'Just.' People apparently have to say 'just' all the time when they're praying out loud. 'Just do this. Just do that.'"

The next time we had Bible study after that, the Item wasn't there, but I paid especial attention to the prayers, to see which of us were the culprits. Oddly enough, I didn't hear anyone saying either "Lord" or "just" an inordinate number of times. I was highly familiar with the peculiar evangelical verbal tic to which the Item had been referring, but I couldn't figure out where he had come across it, because I was pretty sure we were the only group of evangelicals he had ever heard pray before, and no one was succumbing to it.

The following Sunday we met again, and the Item was there. At the end of the study, we collected prayer requests as usual, and then began to pray about them. In spite of how awkward I feel praying aloud, I often feel I should, so I picked something and began to ask God about it. I was halfway through the prayer, and I believe I really was praying, and not just reciting or something, when suddenly I noticed something. I was saying "Lord" all over the place. It was me. I was the one talking to God with extraneous verbiage.

It was kind of embarrassing.

(More thoughts on this soon. If I post them now, this will be so long, no one will read it . . .)

3 comments:

David Madeira said...

Busted! Don't you hate that? I have often wondered why we sometimes slip into our prayer tics. I think I subscribe to the we're-reminding-ourselves-we're-praying to-HIM explanation. But, for myself at least, I don't think I slip into them when I'm praying solo, just when I'm praying in front of other people. Why is that??

Maybe it's because when we are talking in front of other people, we are not USUALLY addressing someone unseen, and so we keep addressing the Third Party by name, because what we're doing is (unfortunately) outside of our normal means of social communication.

Christianne said...

I love this story. Can't wait to hear more.

Jenn said...

Dave, that's so likely true that I feel I no longer need to blog about this. However, I probably will . . .

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