Communication is Complicated, At Best
by Senator Brett
How are you? More importantly, where are you? I heard that you were home, but I also know that you do love your travels, and I think I might know where you might be spending your days, but I’m not exactly sure so I’m just sending this letter to the house. I trust that it will reach you in fair time.
I hope that everything you are working towards comes true, and that everything you have planned for everyone, including myself, is somehow made a reality. I know you expect a lot out of places and people… I just hope it’s not too much. A lot of the time I feel as if I could never live up to your expectations. But, that’s my problem, not yours.
Thanks for the money you sent for groceries. I really needed that. I was kind of in a bad spot, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to afford to eat today. Knowing that I have, at the very least, that base covered makes me feel somewhat better with my station in life.
I wanted to say “I’m sorry” for some of the things I have said and done in the past. I am trying really hard to get things right, but I can’t always seem to be able to handle it. That’s why I guess I’m kinda a pushover when people do, or say, bad things to me. I know how tough it can be to not give in to my lesser self. And, so I don’t hold it against them when they do hurtful things to me. And, I don’t have to guess… I know that I get that from you.
Dad, I know that you think that I’m easily manipulated and that I often choose to do the wrong thing, even when I know that it’s the wrong thing. And, I would be lying if I said that I’m not a very weak man when it comes to irrational thought and suspect deeds. I was hoping that if we could talk about it then, maybe, you could help me avoid situations that I’m just not strong enough to handle right now. And, should I fail, as I am prone to do, I would greatly appreciate your help in those matters.
Dad, I love you. And, I know without a doubt that everything that I have, everything good that has happened in my life, every success, however small and insignificant, is all because of you. And, I will love you for that for the rest of my life.
A form of this letter hangs on the wall behind where I sit to write. But, that’s not why I’m showing it to you. Look, I know that I’m narcissistic at best, and a truly self-absorbed asshole at worst, but trust me when I say that me showing you this letter has nothing to do with either of those sentiments. So, why am I showing you a letter that seems somewhat boring and seems to have no relevance to your life?
Well, the truth is, most likely, you already know of this letter. The odds are that if you grew up in America and were involved in the church at any point in your life, you’ve seen this letter many times. Actually, you probably already know this letter by heart. You just don’t recognize it now… because you only know this letter in its original form:
“Our Father, which are in Heaven, hallowed by Thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us. And, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.”
That’ right. It’s The Lord’s Prayer found in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Yeah, sure, it’s a lot prettier with all the “Thy’s”, and the “hallowed”, and the what-not, but it’s still, basically, the same thing. The letter conveys the same message, the same spirit, just with different words. The only real difference between the letter and The Lord’s Prayer is that the latter is from the Holy Scripture… and the former is from the mind of a complete madman. But, other than that, they are very similar.
Which brings me to my point. Having grown up inside the walls of my church, having gone to Bible college, having spent so much of my earlier years in discussions of Biblical principles, the subject of “What is Prayer?” has come up many times.
When I was young child, and even into my teenage years, I was certain that prayer was time spent on your knees, next to your bed, at the alter, or anywhere where you could find a quiet place. Prayer was also something that you did before you ate anything. It didn’t matter where you were, or how quiet it was there, you just had to thank God before you put anything into your mouth. Prayer could also be other people laying hands on you so that you didn’t get sick, or that if you were already sick that God would heal you. You could also receive prayer so that you wouldn’t sin, or so that something good might happen in your life or in the lives of those that you cared about, and also so that those that you cared about would not sin as well. They call this the “laying on of hands” and it is Biblical. It is. (I will also say this… that in my teenage years the practice of the “laying on off hands” when a beautiful teenage girl came up for prayer, and I was involved… uh… well… let’s just say that there was nothing very “Biblical” going on in my head at the time. I’m just saying.)
And, that was what prayer was to me during that time of my life. That’s all I knew about prayer. It wasn’t until I got a little bit older that I learned the deeper scriptural forms of prayer, like: “intersession”, or “standing in the gap”, or “praying without ceasing,” or “prayer for the edification of others”, or “We pray, pray, ah yeah, we pray, pray, we got to pray just to make it today”… wait, wait… that last one might not be scriptural and might quite possibly be from a MC Hammer song. Sorry about that. Took it just a little too far, but in all fairness, I’m just a little bit too legit, too legit to quit… while I’m ahead.
And, for years that is how I viewed prayer. And, I did take it seriously. I’m not going to pretend that I was “a prayer warrior,” so to speak, but when I did pray I do so with a sincere heart and with purpose and intent.
But, then Bible college came and I began developing a new idea on prayer, not for everyone, mind you, just for me. And, as I was forming this idea, this “prayer experiment” of mine, something happened that changed everything for me, and it appears to have finalized my ideas of prayer… at least for me.
My Motorcycle Has my Prayer Gone All Upside Down!
I had left school after the first semester, mostly due to lack of funds, but also due to the fact that I just didn’t fit in there at the college. True, I’m a walking example of rebellion by nature, but it wasn’t just that personality trait that made me want to leave. I just needed a break from all the “Christians” at my school, save a few close friends. But, I did plan on returning. I thought that’, maybe, I’d take a semester off then go back and finish up.
I got lucky and found someone who needed a roommate at this cool little apartment complex in Deep Ellum of Dallas. A person from the school was managing at a valet service company, and he hooked me up with a job parking cars at a country-western bar and club. The thing about this particular place was that not a lot of people used the valet service so I had a lot of free time to stand at the podium and read, which I really appreciated; however, the tips sucked ass. The bad part of the job, well, other than the lack of tips, was that it required me to stay out so late at night, and to stay out just late enough that I’m catching all the “drinkie-drink/drivie-drive/swervie-swere” traffic on the freeway. So, I took the feeder roads because they were safer. And, they are safer… right up until the point when some young punk pulls out of a Bennigan’s parking lot and clips your motorcycle while you’re doing 55 mph.
So I wake up as the ambulance is backing up and the paramedics are getting out…
There is a lot more to this story, but I’ll save that for another time. I’m fine. I was fine a few days later. I lived through the whole ordeal, my bike? Not so much. But, that’s not the point of the telling of the story.
The next day when I got out of the hospital, while sitting there waiting for a friend to pick me up, I realized that I didn’t want to become a pastor. I didn’t even want to go back to school. I realized that a lot of the ideals that I had been struggling with throughout, not only in college, but also in life in general, were things that I had to resolve for myself, for my own edification.
And, that’s when it happened. That’s when I finally came to the conclusion that my “prayer experiment” was no longer an experiment, but, rather, it was what I truly believed to be right… for me. And, that’s where the letter comes in.
People have often asked me, “What is prayer?”, or posed a question similar to that one, either out of true curiosity, or because prayer was the topic of the Bible study, or church service, or whatever.
For me, prayer is this: talking to a friend. That’s it. There’s no deep “spiritual, scriptural, based on a certain verse, taught to me by a professor” basis on my idea of prayer. I just know what makes sense and works… for me.
I remember this one time in college, when this experiment all began, and a girl asked me about prayer. Firstly, she asked if I prayed at all, which I guess was a fair question considering my reputation as being that of the following: a) not fitting into the “normal” mold of what most people think a Christian should look and act like, b) being definitely nowhere close to the mold of what most people think a Bible college student should be, and c) my constant unwavering assumption that my favorite professor, by the mere fact that he was intelligent and that he used Reason & Logic in his teaching, was in fact, “casting his pearls before swine.” (Yeah, there’s a chance that I might have rubbed some people the wrong way.)
And, so I answered her, and I told her that at the end of the day I often lie in bed and have a conversation with God, an honest conversation. I don’t use flowery words, or quote from the Scriptures, or merely just lift up my friends and family to God… no, that’s not prayer… to me. Rather, I just lie there and talk to God, and I’m honest, and open, and vulnerable,.. but, most of all, I’m real.
“God, man, this was one hell of a shitty day. Why?! I know that I suck and screw the pooch a lot, but, man, this seems a little excessive!”
“God, I need help not putting a baseball bat to the back of the head of “So & So” because if I have to hear that poster child for abortion open his pie-hole one more time I’m going to lose my shit. So, I need Your patience because I sure as Hell don’t have it!”
“God, thank You. Thank You for today, for every little moment that just seemed good. Today was wonderful… and I know that that was You. So, thanks, God, I really needed it.”
And, yes, sometimes it is like this… because I know that He knows my heart and that it’s more important to be honest than it is to try to seem good, even if it’s just between me and God. Sometimes, it is this…
“God, I fucking hate You right now. I know that I shouldn’t. But, I do. I don’t understand how You can be so thoughtless of the tragedies that You allow to take place in this world. I don’t get the sorrow that You let pass among us while You sit on Your ass and do nothing. I know that one day I’ll get over this, but for right now, You’re on my Shit List. And, I’ll come back and talk when I’ve had time to clear my mind. But, for now… I am angry.,, now, right here. And. I’m sorry for my words, but You’ve been my best friend and You know me better than anyone. ”
I know that some might call this blasphemy. I call it being honest and real with the version of God that I choose to follow. And, no, I don’t think it is for everyone. But, I do know that it works for me… for me.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines prayer as: a) an address (as a petition) to God, or a god, in word or thought, and b) an earnest request or wish. Yeah, that seems about right, I guess. It’s pretty boring and monotone in thought. But, when it comes to prayer… I think I like the Bible’s definitions of it a lot more.
The Bible defines prayer as several things: a lifting up of your soul to God, a pouring out of your heart to God, a crying out to God, spiritual incense to God (that one I really like), coming before the Throne of Grace, a spiritual sacrifice (I like this one, as well), and lastly, (my favorite one of all time and from which I base my beliefs on prayer upon) drawing close to God in friendship, fellowship and trust.
Yeah, I like that last one. That’s my definition of prayer.
One thing that I often consider when it comes to prayer is the question of, “Well, does it work?” Look, I think that everyone who knows me knows that if push came to shove then I would probably always side on the side of science over faith. Here’s the deal with me and prayer… I don’t know if prayer actually changes anything that is happening in the physical world, and I don’t know if it can heal people of medical issues or if people can accomplish things merely for a few moments due to adrenaline, I don’t know if prayer can stop things like wars, or famine, or hunger, or little babies dying of curable diseases, or if prayer can fix the other tens of thousands of things that are wrong in our world. I don’t know if prayer can do anything about any one of those things, much less all of them.
But, I do know this… that while prayer might not be able to fix any of those things, that when I pray I am being fixed, and that by the mere fact that I’m am being fixed it makes it more likely that I will recognize that there are things that I can do to try and help fix some of those things. And, maybe, that’s what prayer really accomplishes. Perhaps the honest communication with God – the drawing Him close in friendship, fellowship and trust – well, it changes us and challenges us to do something about the answers that we seek.
One last thing… yes, I’m all for science over faith. Having said that… few people realize that in 1994 The National Institutes of Health in the United States acknowledged the existence of frequencies known as “the human bio-field” and that studies, conducted over several years and by reputable sources, show that human beings transmit energy when in deep thought or meditation… or as we know it, in prayer. When you pray, things change.
So, I think I’m still gonna side with science on this one, the part of science that says that we are all connected and that when we pray we emit energy… and, as we all know, energy can change anything… even our very self.
And, for me, that is enough.