Prayers of the Weak and Powerful

Prayers of the Weak and Powerful

Our Father who art in heaven.  Since I was about 12 years old, or maybe nine, or four, my prayer preamble has been “Dear Heavenly Father….”  But I may in my lifetime have spent more time wondering about prayer than praying, though I am beginning to wonder if there is much of a difference.  Mostly I ask whisperingly What is going on here? or sometimes utter an exasperated What in Heaven’s name is going on here? or on occasion send a belching What the hell is this?  I kneel bed-side or sofa-side, like I am supposed to, though periodically on only one knee because it is more comfortable and because sometimes kneeling on both knees just takes too much out of me and I just cannot do it, and I bow my head, like I am supposed to, to show respect for deity and all that.  And I say, Dear Heavenly Father . . . What is this all about?  I mean, certainly the Father of all Creation does not need my prayers, does not need to hear from me about anything—he is after all already omniscient and there is nothing I can tell him he does not already know.  And I cannot believe the Master of the Universe is so vain and petty as to need my miniscule adulations, to relish abased praise from one of eight billion humans groping darkly toward some Thing, or from one of unknown uncountable trillions of little beings in the galaxy, in the universe, having discovered the capacity for morality and choice.  So this behavior we call “prayer” must be designed for us.  Hallowed me thy name.  This hallowing must be a thing, an act, a ritual, not that the Great Spirit needs but that he knows that I need, that we all need, because we are all supposed to pray.  There must be something sanctifying in the act of humbling myself in body and word and thought and in the act of acknowledging my inferior and imperfect and small self before the Divine Greatness, something transformative, something edifying and elevating my inner unseen spiritual sense and that connects me in my mortality and my weakness to a Grand Force that can bring me along, line by line, expanding my spiritual functioning, integrating my fractured disparate parts into greater wholeness, stretching and reforming and deepening.  Give us this day our daily bread.  After Dear Heavenly Father . . . I am usually lost and wandering, scratching my nose, staring at the ubiquitously yellow walls and ceiling, yawning, feeling the wrinkled sheets.  What do I say next?  I guess this is the part where I ask for blessings I desire.  Always I ask for family blessings, often naming each person and what I think they need—they are after all who I know best and for whom I worry most.  When I am tired I sigh in shorthand Please bless my parents and all their posterity.  Even when I am tired I seek after my children: bless him to find work; bless her to find Thee; bless him that his friends won’t give him pot and porn and get him addicted to stupidity and lies and make him a follower when he is meant to be and has all the ability and talent and charisma to be a leader; bless her that she will be safe from evil men; bless him to find a wonderful girl; bless him to settle into marriage with the wonderful girl he found (who found him); bless her to find hope and peace and happiness though she lost her first child; bless her to find good friends and to get better from her cold.  This is how I do it: I turn inward to my own.  Satisfied I have done my duty, and knowing the broad “all their posterity” net is the lazy way, I try to turn ever so slowly outward to siblings, and to their children and grandchildren.  I even pray for the abundant ex-spouses so they will not be idiots or devils but peaceful and not damage their children with traumas and manipulations and lies—my heart needs to be pretty soft to go there.  Sometimes I pray for leaders of nations and states and cities and institutions so they will be smarter and kinder and seek more after peace and general prosperity than stroking their own pride of power.  And very often I tell the Great Mystery that I do not know what he or she or they need, But You know! so give it to them!  (I say it in a nice way, very respectfully, though there has been a time or two where I added an irreverent but sincere damn it! for personal passionate emphasis.)  Forgive our debts as we forgive out debtors.  About the siblings’ ex-spouses, Lord, please help me not to hate them and curse them and wish they would just make life easier by dying (I never actually pray for anyone to die; I just think it might simplify things).  Please help me not to be jealous or angry or petty or bossy or manipulative or hurtful or vengeful or . . .  Help me to be nicer and kinder and more generous.  Help me to forgive even though I do not want to forgive and forgiving is the hardest thing I have ever done and I want to hang on to that big sticky grudge.  Speaking of all this, Deliver me from evil.  Okay, Father Perfect, I finally gave up that habit, that vice, though it took me twenty years and lots of false starts and lots of falling off the wagon and rolling in the dust, but I did it, finally, I suppose with Thy help, thank you, since that is what the prophets say you do for us.  Yes, back to the beginning, I acknowledge that thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and in that acknowledgment hope that you are merciful and kind and that what my Jesus said and did tells me who you are, inside, that you will not cut off my hands or laugh at me for perennial failures or send me to Hell forever for merely trying.  I am trying.  And I am grateful, though I take a while getting there.  I guess Amen is supposed to end it or something, though Amen does not end anything, it just says I’m with you Mighty Lord and We’re in this together, right? and I move on into the day and try to remember always, or collapse into bed and try to forget until tomorrow, and always always try to believe and hope in Your Promise that if Ask you will Give to me and if I Seek I will Find and if I Knock you will Open Yourself to me, in ways I may not be able to see, at times long past my prayer—maybe years—maybe lifetimes—by methods I might not like or appreciate or even be aware of, with hardships that make me so sad and mourning for a long long time but slowly the sorrow slips thinly away and the wounds and scars heal, forgetting to fester, and I find that by some miracle I am better than I was before.

Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire, uttered or unexpressed.  After more than fifty years living in this beautiful and troubled world, I have concluded that my life is my prayer.  If I choose to be angry, I am praying an angry prayer.  If I choose to be kind and humble and gentle, I am living the prayer of a kind and humble and gentle man.  It seems to me, then, that we do in fact receive what we ask for, and find what we seek, and that whatever door we knock upon indeed is opened unto us.  At the end of the day, whether or not I kneel, or bow my head or fold my arms, whether or not I form in mouth or mind any words, I have lived my life and prayed my fervent prayer.

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