Calling God By His First Name
I once went to a church where a woman, a self-confirmed prayer expert, called another woman out on the way she prayed.
“I say this in love, but you are praying incorrectly. You can’t just talk and not address your heavenly father by name. You must say, ‘Lord’ and then follow it up with your request. I wouldn’t want your prayers to go unanswered.”
The woman who’d been called out went red in the face because, you see, this had been pointed out during a prayer group and now everyone was staring at her. She started to cry.
“I’m just trying to be helpful. There is a right way and a wrong way to pray,” said the expert.
I didn’t see what the woman had done wrong. I usually pray the exact same way she had, but apparently we’ve both been doing it all wrong. Obviously, God is very picky when you dial his number. You must include a prefix code of “thou” or “Lord”. If you don’t, he will assume you are a crank call and hang up in your ear and then screen your calls.
I was sure glad that I hadn’t spoken up in prayer because my prayers are almost always of such a personal nature that I often times start mid-sentence. I’m also prone to what I call “spurt prayers.” I will sometimes pray in tiny little spurts when I’m thinking about things so I don’t forget them later. When I’m driving by the school I say, “please look after my kids today as they go through their school day. Remind them that you are always with them. And that you’re watching so they better not pick their noses and eat their boogers.”
Then I start writing out a mental grocery list.
Other times, when I’m in line at a red light, I’ll look over at someone who just looks like they are having a bad day and I’ll say, “I don’t know this person, but he sure does look like he needs you right now. Please follow him wherever he goes and fill him with peace.”
Then I turn up the radio and start jamming to “Moves Like Jagger.” Like I said, spurts.
Later, when I have time to devote, I will pray in earnest. These prayers are most always not about something I want or need but about giving thanks.
“Thank you for this beautiful day, okay so maybe it’s cloudy but it’s still beautiful. Thank you for the fact that I woke up at all. Thank you for my silly husband and sweet children, my friends and family. Thank you for my home and our security. I don’t deserve these things above anyone else, and why you chose me to bestow them on while there are people living in refugee camps, I will never know but I thank you. Thank you for my health (remind me to eat more fiber) and for loving me when I’m completely un-loveable and unable to even love myself. Thank you for pursuing me so ferociously when I played so hard to get and for second chances and for grace that I will never fully comprehend. Thank you for all of it, everything you’ve ever given and will give me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Sometimes I pretend that God and I Skype. Like we have a 3:00 meeting and I sit down, tuck my hair behind my ears, and say, “It’s me……..”. He always smiles. Sometimes he winks while he points his finger at me. I usually do this when I need some serious advice or when I’m super confused about something. He always listens but sometimes he doesn’t stay on task (my task). One time, during one of our conversations, he was way off base.
If you’ve never heard from God, let me tell you how he talks to me. It’s like a thought in my head that pops in from out of nowhere and is so loud that it sounds like a loud speaker. It’s always unreasonable and so foreign that it’s very clear that the thoughts do not belong to me. I most always feel invaded. The thoughts will play over and over again, like a flat tire that keeps on thumping until I finally stop and tend to it.
“Hey, remember that girl Danielle that you used to work with, like, ten years ago? Maybe you should call her out of the blue. She used to invite you to church all of the time and was really nice to you!” he said.
“What? Are you crazy? I haven’t talked to her in, like, well ten years. I don’t know where she is, what she’s doing, how to reach her. Let’s please get back to my problems, shall we?”
“You could probably find her on Facebook you know? Look her up, Look Her Up, LOOK.HER.UP!”
“AAHHH! If I will, would you kindly stop shouting in my head?”
“Maybe. Tell her that you appreciated how she brought you to church and how you didn’t find me then but eventually you did. You found me, you looooooove me (I imagined him fanning his face) and that she was part of your journey, and I used her for that and want to keep using her for great things.”
“This is crazy. She’s going to think I’m crazy.”
“So?” he said.
I got up, opened my browser, and logged into Facebook all the while rolling my eyes. This is really pretty stupid you know. I let out a long sigh as I thought to myself. I don’t have time for this. I need help. I need advice. I need guidance. Isn’t that what God is for? Isn’t he supposed to help me? I was just praying for his guidance and instead I’m here running crazy errands. Good grief!
I typed in Danielle’s name, and she immediately popped up. I sent her a friend request and a message.
“Hi Danielle. You’re going to think I’ve completely lost my mind but I just wanted to say ‘hi’ and tell you how much I appreciate how you took me to church with you back when because, while I didn’t know God then, I do now (he’s looking over my shoulder right now and tapping his foot). Please know that he loves you, and he used you to bring me to him. He wants to use you again.”
I sent the message, half embarrassed. She’s going to think I’ve completely fallen off my rocker, I thought. I went on with my day and, a few hours later, when I checked Facebook there was a note from Danielle. She had accepted my friend request and her message said this:
“I left the church about five years ago. I was deeply hurt by my many things that happened with our pastor and haven’t been close to God since then. Last week, I went to church for the first time since I left and just this morning I was praying to God, for him to let me know if I was doing the right thing by going back. Would it be okay this time? Would I be able to return and start fresh? I’m writing this with tears falling onto my keyboard. Thank you SO much for messaging me!”
I rolled my office chair away from the desk and sat very still. Did that just happen? In one fell swoop God had answered both of our prayers. He had distracted me from myself and refocused my purpose while simultaneously reassuring Danielle.
And I didn’t even say “thou.”
(For more great stuff from Alicia, check out her blog at AmericasNextTopMommy.)