I’ll be honest, I don’t like praying. In fact, I don’t like praying to the point that I don’t do it. Well, that’s not exactly true, a more accurate version of that statement would be that I don’t like praying to the point that I don’t do it in public. My aversion to public prayer is well-known to my friends and family; so much so that one of my Sunday school co-teachers makes jokes about it. Part of the reason for that reluctance stems from my private prayer habits. They’re not exactly what you’d call “orthodox”.
I’m sure that last statement comes as a massive surprise to readers of this blog, given my well-documented love of orthodoxy (that, my friends, is what’s known in the trade as “sarcasm”), so let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. One Sunday morning a few years ago, I was running late on my way to church but still needed to stop and get some cash for the offering (I don’t like a record of what I give. But, that’s post for another day). I hit an ATM at a shopping center that was on the way, but got caught at a stoplight as I was leaving. It was one of those looooong ones, too. You know the type: you sit there for what feels like an hour, as exactly zero cars pass in front of you. I was tempted to run it, but the town had recently installed red light cameras, so that really wasn’t an option. As I sat there, stewing, I began talking to God.
Me: “You know, I’m only in this situation because I stopped to get some money for you. The least you could do is make the damn light change.”
God: “So, you decide to be a lazy fuck and sleep in and it’s my fault?(Yes, in my head, God is a smart ass with a dirty mouth. Big surprise, huh?). Besides, you know I don’t work that way. I may not take you out of a bad situation, but I will take you through it.”
Me: “Oh, that’s so god-damned helpful. Please, tell me how you’re going to “take” me through this.
God: “Hmm, let’s see. How about I help you learn some patience?”
Me: “And, how are you going to do that?”
God: “By having you sit at this light for a while.”
Me: “Wow, that’s so fucking helpful, God. Sitting at this light, watching the time tick away as I get later for church every god-damned second is so not a big deal anymore. Your brilliant plan totally worked!” (I may muttered “Asshole” under my breath. I’m not going on record with that, though)
God: “Okay, fine. How about I help you learn to get off your ass and leave home early enough to get where you’re going on time. Asshole.” (God, being God, didn’t need to mutter the word under his/her breath)
Me: “Okay, I got the point. Leave earlier. Fine.”
God: “No, you don’t have the point. The point is “Ease the fuck up. I don’t really give a shit if you’re couple of minutes late for church. Hell, I’m happy you bothered to show up at all.” At that point, the light turned green and I went on my way.
You can see where that style of prayer might not go over so well in a Sunday school class (or anywhere else, for that matter). But, prayer is an intensely personal practice and you’ve got to find what works for you. For me, it’s a personal conversation with a snarky God who drops f-bombs and talks smack about my screw-ups. For you, it might be kneeling in an ornate cathedral saying The Lord’s Prayer. And, there’s nothing wrong with either version.