Prayer – not to be confused with politeness

Now for a brief change of pace: I am moving house in five days (aagh) and bought the Age on Saturday 13th August for the dual purpose of protecting fragile items as I pack, and in the hope that there would be something of interest to read. I was rewarded with an article on the Lord’s Prayer by Michael McGirr, with the following eye-grabbing sub-heading:

“A person who has never dropped a four-letter word in the presence of God has never really prayed.”

Now we are all familiar with the euphemism “four letter word” and I must confess that the word it replaces is not usually on my prayer language repertoir. According to McGirr, “God can make the innocent blush”. There is plenty in the bible that is blush-worthy, so I would have to concur here! McGirr spends a bit of time on the “rough and tumble” of prayer, and rawness of emotion. A challenging thought really – how often do we come before God in the rawness and diversity of our emotionality? Times of crisis come to mind, but as I don’t live there too much (thankfully), what characterises my prayer the rest of the time? Casual conversation over a cup of coffee style more often than not. I think there is a place for this kind of dialogue with God, and I do not wish to diminish it. But the lack of the whole gamet of human emotion throughout my prayer says something, even if at this moment I am not exactly sure what. Maybe I am too comfortable. Maybe I am dispassionate about the things that move God’s heart, and should break mine. Heart-wrenching examples of raw and unpolite prayer can be found littered through the words of Job in the Old Testament. McGirr says this of Job:

Job was a “simple man who encountered a complex God. These days it is much more common to find the opposite: complex people who have teamed themseles up with a simple God. They keep God as a mascot for their political prejudices, a soft toy hanging from the rear-vision mirror of the car in which they go where they like.”

What would it be like to beseech God with the passion and unbridled honesty of Job? If only we could connect with God in that way, er, without the boils…

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6 thoughts on “Prayer – not to be confused with politeness

  1. I really like this. It (somewhat sadly ha) reminds me of the scene in “Saved” where the girl… can’t pray or does pray but all she can say isn’t what we’d normally repeat at God.

    In someways personally I don’t find it half as difficult to ‘get raw’ with God emotionally when I’m on my own. Taking that to my visible God relationship – where others are involve is something much more difficult.

    I’d like to be a simple girl who encounters a complex God – but I err far on the alternate.

    Very interesting post.

  2. I like the post. I’ll probably be using it as inspiration for my inaugural post a little later.

    I’ve encountered this not too long ago reading a book from Relevant books. Is God big enough to handle what we are trained is unholy or taught is vulgar, disgusting? Can God handle an unholy human’s reaction to life, the universe, and Himself?

    Really good points. And, I find myself in agreement with Bec, in hoping that I can be a simple guy who encounters a complex God. Keep on writing, it’s thought provoking!

  3. thanks for your comment dunlapw! I am certain God is big enough to handle our humanity, in all its flaws, weaknesses, vulgarities etc. When I read your comment I was reminded of a scene from Bruce Almighty, where he gets down in the middle of the road after his life has essentially disintegrated around him. He yells out to God something that would not generally be heard amongst the prayers of the “pious”. There is something authentic about spirituality that is not cloaked in religiousity or social nicety – just our raw humanity encountering a complex God beyond our comprehension….

  4. Mmm so very true. I’ve been finding this a bit lately- I’ll be praying and after I while I feel like I’m reconstructing the thoughts in my head so they sound ‘nicer’ to God. Get’s pretty exhuasting after a while when you don’t feel as though you’re being real.

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