Monday, July 25, 2011

"Nascar, teach us to pray..."

I've had my giggle over Pastor Joe Nelms' prayer to open yesterday's Nascar race--if you haven't seen it, it's a nice "joy-break" in your day.

But the prayer--humorously--makes me ask, "What should we pray for? And how should we pray for it?"

Because, secretly, I like this prayer. 

I like that it's specific. 

I like that it's--so far as I can tell--honest. 

I like that it's said in the language of thanksgiving for all God's gifts. 

I like that it's an homage to Talladega Nights, one of my favorite movies with another similarly memorable prayer.

I like that it encompasses everything from the personal to the global. 

I can't remember who taught me that when we want to learn how to pray, we should begin with things that are simple, perhaps even trivial, but honest.  If we want to find a parking spot, we should pray to find a parking spot.  If we want our nasty co-worker to get what's coming to her, we should pray for that.  We might feel more virtuous if we prayed for world peace, but praying for world peace, frankly, might not be honest for us--world peace would require significant change in how we handle difference in the world, and that change would be unpleasant for most of us.  So pray for what is true.   Parking spots.  Petty revenge. GM parts and Sunoco fuel.  There's plenty of precedent for this in the psalms, which frequently pray for the destruction of our enemies. 

And then, when we have trained ourselves to pray for what is honest, expand.  Move from parking spots up to "Lord, help me have a difficult conversation with my loved one." Still honest.  But a little less trivial.  Pray for the nasty co-worker to have a conversion experience, rather than justice.  Maybe it will open the door to compassion on our side too.  Stay honest.  And expand to thanksgivings--what are we grateful for?  What is the "smoking hot wife" in our lives that we want to celebrate?  Again, don't worry about being shallow--just be conscious of your gratitude.

Over time, maybe we'll take another leap towards selflessness.  Praying for others, and not just ourselves--still honestly.  Giving thanks for experiences that have taught us, even if they were unpleasasant at the time.  Praying for the ability to change and grow so that praying for aspirations like world peace will be honest. 

But for now, I give thanks for my church, my apartment, my "smoking hot" husband and my son. I give thanks for the people I work with every day, and pray for consolation for the people in Norway who have suffered the loss of loved ones.  I pray that people who commit violence in the name of their religions truly see what they've done someday.  And I pray that the Vestry meeting tonight will go well.  In Jesus' name, Amen. 

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