Thursday, May 22, 2008

A rare moment of joke-free honesty

Staci and I have been doing something for, I don’t know, the last year or so, that has changed our lives and our marriage. There’s a good chance that it’s changed more than that, but I really don’t know for sure.

Here’s what we’ve been doing. Any time that we’re together (and often when we’re not, but I’ll explain that later), if one of us says “we really need to be praying for/about…” we just pray right then. If we’re at home, we just sit down right where we are (if the kids are around we drag them into it) and pray for a few minutes. If we’re in public, we find some way to do it with minimum obviousness and “show.”

I know this isn’t any huge thing. Lots of you probably live your lives like this, but it’s new for us. We’ve always prayed together. Every couple handles this kind of thing differently, I know. But we’ve never had excessive feelings of weirdness or discomfort with it. I pray pretty much the same way I talk, and so does Staci (only Staci sometimes prays with a kind of intuition and intensity that’s a little bit mystical), so it’s all pretty much the same as having a conversation, only The King of The Universe is in on it.

The new part is that we have a “let’s do this right now” kind of thing going. And, for some reason, it’s just made our prayers feel more real and more connected to who we are and who God is.

I’m not saying it’s easy to explain. I’m not about to give you a method to a better life or anything. I’m just telling you that we’ve changed the way we’ve been praying, and it’s been significant for us. It is what it is.

But it has changed us. It’s pretty much obliterated that whole “I’ll be praying for you” problem, which I assume you’re familiar with. You know, where you don’t really end up praying for the people who are counting on your prayers.

That’s over. Sometimes the whole thing is comical, because someone will tell me something that they want me to pray for, and I’ll say, “let’s just pray now.” I don’t do it to be “edgy” or shock-jock or odd-for-God or whatever (at least not most of the time). It just makes the most sense to me to take care of it right then. But of course you can imagine that some people are a little thrown off by it.

Hey, I’m a little thrown off by it. Sometimes the “let’s pray right now” line just flies out of my mouth before I really process it. Sometimes I am feeling a little full of my spiritual self – thinking how blessed this person is to be getting advice from a smart guy like me –and I realize that I’ve just invited someone to pray with me (for them) and I don’t even know what to pray for.

There’s a little bit of reckless idiot still hiding out in my corners and cracks.


As far as I can tell in searching my own heart, I don’t think I’m bringing this up to say how super-awesome my/our prayer life is. Even if I was trying to say that, it wouldn’t be the truth. We pray for stuff when we think of it, but sometimes we’re too busy or too selfish or too cynical to think of it. Sometimes we only think of stuff that is helpful or life-giving for us, completely forgetting about the needs of others. Usually Staci isn’t guilty of any of those things, but even she’s a human. A super-hot human with really good hair, but a human no less.

No, I’m writing this for a couple of other reasons. First, I’ve run into a lot of people lately who feel like they just don’t know how to pray.

I know this feeling. I've had it many times. Like maybe somebody showed it to me at some point, but I forgot to write it down, and now when I have to do it without the help of an experienced pray-expert, I just freeze up and clam up and stumble along until I finally say “oh forget it, God you know what I want.”

Or -- for better or for worse -- I just turn my praying into a fill-in-the-blanks test, inserting every cliché I can think of until my prayer sounds like the half-hearted, prepared statement of a high school football coach speaking to the reporter of the local rag after a game that everybody knew they were going to win anyway.

Lots of people pray like that. I pray like that. For many of us, this is prayer-as-usual. If we even pray at all, we pray without passion. We apply more purpose and sweat and effort to blogging or voting for American Idol or trying to figure out Lost than we do to praying.

Lord, have mercy.

Hey, this is me, too. I’m the chief of sinners.

So that’s the first reason I’m writing this: to remind us that praying is just something you have to practice and repeat if you want to “master” it; that praying is something you have to make yourself do so that you’ll actually be doing something eternal and right amidst all that is temporal and silly (and that's a lot).

Second, I’m writing this because I want to tell you about a few things that I’ve been praying about today.

Here’s a big one. Lots of you have already heard about this, so I won’t try to act like it’s my exclusive scoop. The more I think about it, I’m pretty sure this is the worst family scenario I can reasonably imagine. Aside from all the obvious stuff that everybody knows about the patriarch of this family, here’s something else you should know: these people are on a mission to save orphans, and they use their own actual, personal money to make it happen. Moreover, they started an organization that helps others do it too. They gave my family $2000 when we adopted Jude. We didn’t have the money to adopt Jude. Then we did. Because of them (and some other generous folks who would rather not be linked to). So pray for it. Right now. They need it.

The other one is nothing new. My brother is in a miserable state right now. You can read more about it all here. You can even look at pictures that show you the awful rash that covers most of his body. The rash is exacerbated by heat, so he can’t really go outside much at all, because it’s summer in Birmingham. Also, he’s nauseous and weak and lonely. And he signs off every one of his blogs with “God is good.” I’m telling you, this guy is a hero. And so is his wife, who is limping around on bad feet (long story) to keep everything together in their life. Pray for them. Right now. They need it.

Oh, and in case that’s not enough to get you on your knees or whatever, you can go global with your praying. Myanmar is facing a tragedy of unimaginable proportions. And Rwanda is totally screwed up. I could continue, but then it might sound like I don’t have any faith.

Sometimes I don’t. But that’s why I pray. I don’t just pray because I have faith. I pray because I need faith.

And in those times, the Lord reminds me that He does stuff like keeping this kid alive when no one said it was possible (lots of folks prayed for this one, and I have to believe that it mattered). He reminds me that He brought us these little guys even though we can’t make babies the normal way (though not for a lack of blessed procreative activity). He reminds me that I have more friends than people should be allowed to have; that I have a career and a house and a wife that really loves me.

I wish my faith wasn’t so tied to results, but there you go. I’m a mess.

If I sound preachy, forgive me. This is the stuff that’s all over me today, and the only way to get it off is to throw it on you.


D.O. said...

That particular type of throwing your messy mind on us is always welcome as far as I'm concerned.

Shane said...

All good stuff - I really like the "let's pray now" thing because it seems Spirit led. If the Holy Spirit prompts you to pray for something, I would assume that He is meaning now - that is why He brought it to mind.

court garrison said...

Good stuff Ross...I check in on your bothers site and pray for he and his family when I do. Love the PRAY NOW deal. Check out this sweet link of Maria Chapman and her Daddy. Precious little angel! Thanks for sharing your heart..

Michael said...

reading this really turned my day around. Great stuff. Thanks for sharing.

Johnny! said...

We have done the pray now thing in our home all along, but we've been guilty of the "We'll pray for you!" thing outside the home.

One of the best things in our marriage has been saying Morning Prayer together regularly, but that's kind of the opposite of what you're talking about. But reciting canticles, confessing the Creed, confessing sin and saying the Lord's Prayer together, day in and day out, has certainly been a blessing.

rk said...

It's not "opposite," Johnny. It's just a different application in, i believe, the same spirit.

I am all for the recited prayers, so long as they are done with meaning, and I know you are intentional, heartfelt, and earnest in your praying.

Cliches and Spirit-less knee-jerk responses are what I'm against.

But either way, I'm just for "more prayer," whatever that means. I know you and Jenni are really seeking/loving/following Jesus, even in what appears (to us evangelicals, at least) to be "rote religion," and I'm actually kind of jealous, at times, of your deep knowledge and experience in the more "religious" aspects of Jesus-following.

Anyway, thanks for the input.

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