I'm a human being trying to live with other human beings. I'm also a United Church of Canada Minister,a husband, a father, a musician; I'm a wine,food,soccer guy... and my mind wanders. It wanders a lot. This blog is a record of some of the places that my mind takes me.. sometimes by force, other times I can't wait for the trip.
Tuesday, 7 May 2013
Prayer and Spiritual Spooning
Someone asked me recently, if I prayed.
Now, I’m careful about such questions. I’m cautious… I’ll tell you what teams I cheer for, what
foods I like, who I think is hot (always, and only, my wife). I’ll tell you
about the pedicure I got last week, the experience of my last colonoscopy and
I’ll even give you the PIN for my bankcard, before I’ll talk about prayer (Which is weird because I’m a Minister and it’s
kinda in the job description)
But as well as being a Minister, I’m also a people
pleaser (many people think I could work harder at this..). Deep down, I like to make people happy and I
hate to disappoint. I hate to let
the earnest believers down when I won’t affirm their belief in a Celestial
Concierge to whom I appeal for information, recommendations, reservations,
transportation, entertainment and polite solutions to all of my problems. I also hate to disappoint my “oh so
progressive” friends who want me to divorce myself from anything “supernatural”
and confirm that prayer is just a kind of self-help meditation practice in
which I enable myself to be lovable, capable and gosh-darn amazing.
Answering questions about my personal prayer life, can only
lead to disappointment… so, I often change the subject:
"Prayer… that sounds like hair… I love musicals, do you love
musicals? I went to London once and saw lots of musicals and I ate a bug…"
Undaunted, the Master of my Inquisition persisted: “Do you pray?”
“Do you pray often?”
“Yes” (that’s me, always taciturn).
“Yes… I’m a big fan of spiritual bran”
(that sounds more like me)
“Come on… tell me more… how do you pray?”
“I pray Girly in the morning.”
“I pray Girly in the morning.”
“If you’re not going to take this seriously, than forget
Mission accomplished… he stormed off and I left the Men’s
shower at the gym (people do seem to find the strangest places to start
However, this time, I actually was ready to explain.. I finally knew how to answer the question. In fact, I kind of wanted to answer… but I
thought that my running naked after him calling out “Wait, wait… I know how to do it
now..” would have seemed awkward.
will instead, blog my reply.
I pray Girly in the morning.
I do pray every morning… heck, I pray all throughout the
day… but I make a point of quieting the world down and praying in the
morning. Sometimes at 6am; sometimes at 11:30…
but always Girly. Which has nothing to
do with what I wear when I’m praying… and everything to do with my attitude to
Now, I should warn you that I am about to venture into some
serious engagement with cultural stereo-types, which might be offensive to some (feel free at this point to switch over to a Youtube video of a cat riding on Roomba). I am inspired by Meister Eckhart, Julian of
Norwich and David Steinberg when it comes to prayer, but for the authority that
comes from cultural stereo-types, I rely heavily on the film canon of Julia Roberts,
Sandra Bullock and Meg Ryan (the Holy Trinity of chick flicks). Pouring over the canon, here is what I’ve learned:
Women and men are different.
Men like to do things and get things done…. Often with duct
Women like to talk… communicate… cuddle… (almost never with duct tape)
Men are in a hurry.
Women are patient.
Men are motivated by reward.
Women are motivated by relationship.
Men, when they listen to women, like to go and fix things. (again, often with duct tape)
Women just want to be heard…
Women like to cuddle....
Women like Johnny Depp. (but hey, who doesn't?)
When I pray, I believe that something profound happens. I believe that my prayers matter. I believe that the world changes and I change
in and as a result of prayer. But I
pray to God…. The Divine… the Holy (and wholly) Other… as if I was a big girl. I’m not motivated by reward or fixated on
results; my desire is communication and relationship. My
prayers to God are meant to enhance our relationship; to open us further to one
another. In response to my prayers, I’m
not expecting God to do my bidding or to rush out and fix things for me… I just
want God to listen to me. I just want
to share who I am and be accepted for my experiences, thoughts and feelings and
be loved just as I am. I guess, I’m
looking for a little Spiritual Cuddling.
In that cuddle; in that acceptance, I am strengthened… and
my awareness is heightened. As God and I
become closer, I am more aware of the Presence of the Divine in the world
around me, more attuned to the voice that invites me into beauty, greater
depth, deeper joy, varied connection and real wholeness. Prayer is a place for us (me and God) to
enhance and enable a relationship.
I pray about my friends who are suffering, not because my
expectation is that God will send an angel and end Aunt Edna’s woes, but because if
God is going to know me then God needs to know that I’m awake nights worrying
about my beloved Aunt. I need God to spiritually
spoon with me and say “I know…. I know…”
If Edna is on the receiving end of some kind of miraculous gift, then
I’m going to be very happy… but regardless of what happens in the next couple
of days as a result of prayer, I will at least be more aware of God’s presence
in her life and in our relationship… and so, might be able to point to something comforting or inspiring... I might have an observation or insight that has value to Edna, because prayer has opened my eyes and my heart to the Divine.
There was a time that I prayed like a man… or a boy, anyway: Asking for help and judging God’s love and my worth by the evidence of my will
being done. But then, the Toronto Maple
Leafs stopped winning Stanley Cups and I had to wonder. I came to a crossroads where I would have to
give up cheering for the Leafs or give up believing in God (surely, I was good enough
to warrant a reward… especially in the 1970s. The other choice was that I would
have to come to a new understanding of prayer.
And so, not ready to give up on God or the Buds, I reconsidered prayer.
And I found Girly prayer.
Prayer that asks God to hold me and never let me go… Prayer
that tells God about my day, my hopes and my fears without the expectation that
God is going to fix everything or take over my life… Prayer that invites and
enhances relationship: relationship that invites both parties to grow… Prayer
that brings me a deeper appreciation of God’s presence all around me and
invites me to be part of that life… And as I become a part of God's life, I begin to change the world... Quite satisfying and remarkable, actually.
Now, if I can just figure out how to get the duct tape in, I’ll
have it all.