Wednesday, April 24, 2013

2013.04.24 What Are Prayers For?

Prayers are for anything that bursts forth from our heart, minds and lungs, whenever we are blasted from our complacency and moved to cry out ex profundis, from the deep.

To whom?

I dunno really.  But I call my unknowing God, because I need to name the mystery. I need to feel my prayers connect; I need to feel heard, to believe I am heard,which is far more important to me than being answered. 

When I worked at an alcohol/drug rehabilitation center in Connecticut I was the chaplain, the one in charge of spirituality. I felt ridiculous many days but I preached on and consoled patients and learned that anyone who tries to explain God will probably end up having to have their tongues surgically untwisted.

There was Johnnie who’d never heard of God. Well, close my mouth! Someone in the late 80s in this quite piously religious country who’d never heard of God? 

After I talked myself blue with explanations I shut up and we sat silently together.  Then I asked Johnnie if he had ever called out in anguish or joy. Yup, he said.  Who did you think you were calling to? I asked. Oh, is that God? he said and grinned. I grinned too.

I don’t know what happened to Johnnie after he left treatment, sober and hopeful, believing he had a sense of God in his bag of tricks. But I know we prayed.  

The first prayer uttered by many of us after the tragic events of Marathon Monday in Boston was Oh my God! Is that a prayer or a swear?  I call it prayer. OMG is now the latest, p.c. way to exclaim astonishment or horror and every wonder in between.

OMG is an ejaculation that leaves us all pregnant with Compassion. It heals the habit of using theological language that divides the world into good/bad, worthy/unworthy, saved/unsaved.  OMG such treason. We are one in prayer, an inner gift we all have, and none have never used.

Our prayers until now have been obvious. Now it is time, I think, for the less obvious prayer, the one I call the excorcistic vengeance prayer that cleans out our souls. 

It’s time now to pray with the Tsarnaev family—all rent asunder. Their pain and grief is as real as ours, though we want to judge it as less noble. It’s not. And there is still a God who listens and provides inner strength to them as well as to us as Compassion is released into the world.

Would I have dared to say such things from a podium or pulpit in the wake of these criminal events?  In a parish community, yes. Kneeling at my altar, yes. Sitting listening to birds outside, yes. For a national audience on TV?  Probably, which is probably why I’m not one standing in such a public position.

Let us pray.