[Warning: Theology post.]
You ever worry if there are things that everyone seems to just know how to do and nobody talks about but there's a nagging voice in your head wondering if you're doing it wrong?
"I say, you're doing it all wrong, boy!"Take wiping, for instance. And yeah, I mean that kind. We were all taught how to do that for ourselves as part of a toilet training process that is so long ago and so psychologically buried that we can't remember it. We've just always done it. And I bet for each of us, we've always done it a certain way - any other way would just feel wrong. But how do you know what is the right way? Maybe you're not doing it right. And it's not like you can clear it up over lunch sometime with your buddy and say, "Hey, Mike! Can I ask you a question? It's been kinda bothering me for a while and I gotta know - how do you wipe, man? 'Cause I think I'm doing it all wrong and was wondering if you could pass along some tips? Maybe even show me? It'd be a big help, buddy."
- Foghorn J. Leghorn
How do you think that would go over?
And no, I am not here to talk about wiping, I am just using it as an example (to which the collective readership breathes a sigh of relief). But there are other things just as personal that we learned a long time ago and that nobody talks about and that are embarrassing to ask about now. To ask about how to do such things now would expose our vulnerability and place us outside "the club" that "just knows." There are many such touchy subjects.
If you were raised a Christian then sometime between the age of two and three you were taught to clasp your hands and bow your head and scrunch up your eyes real tight while some adult blathered on before dinner about thanks for this and pleadings for that and people who were sick that you didn't know. You fidgeted and squirmed, and finally it would grind to a halt with an "Amen!" and then you could eat. A bit later on you were even taught to "say grace", first via rote memorization. I grew up with:
God is goodLes's family (and our kids) learned:
God is great
And we thank Him
for our food.
Come Lord JesusIn fact, there was a long-running and bitter theological war between the kids for a year or more over whether it should be "thy gifts" or "these gifts." I finally stepped in and settled the matter by declaring "these gifts" to be of the recognized canon in our household. But I digress.
be our guest
and let these gifts
to us be blessed.
Still later we then learned how to "pray" ourselves. Or at least, I think we did. Maybe. We'd offer up our own wishes and worries at dinner, or in church. Tentative at first, then with more confidence as we learned the lingo and the patterns. Sometimes they were sincere, heartfelt pushes of thoughts upward ('cause isn't that where Heaven is? Up?) Sometimes they were more praying "at" someone - "Dear God, please make my brother Jon quit kicking me under the table." Prayer as passive-aggression.
Meanwhile, week-in and week-out at church we were taught that prayer involved:
- A "respectful" posture - hands folded, head bowed.
- Formalized language - the KJV Bible may be dead in many churches but everyone still recites "Thy Kingdom come" when it comes time for the Lord's prayer.
- A lot of repetition and rote.
- A seemingly never-ending stream of words.
- Always asking for something.
Anyway, I think I'm "doing it wrong". For one, sometimes I pray not just to the Father and the Son, but to the Spirit, too. I remember reading somewhere that in fact we should pray to the Spirit, since He is the one that is with us and within us (literally in our head and heart). He is the one who will intercede for us with "groans that words cannot express." He is the one I worry about pissing off the most, and you don't want to piss off the Spirit. And He is coequal.
For another, I tend not to be very formal when I pray. I pray almost daily in the shower, and while my head may be bowed my hands typically aren't clasped. I am working on getting rid of a lot of the "God-talk," too, because that isn't me, and it gets in the way of real communication, and hence a real relationship. I try to give thanks as much or more as to ask for help or forgiveness.
But I worry. Maybe I am committing a heresy by praying to the Spirit as well as the Father and the Son. Maybe I am bringing down judgment for praying in the shower and not on my knees by my bed (gee, isn't that how you were taught to say bedtime prayers?)
Maybe I ask for too much. Or maybe I am being proud and self-reliant and don't ask for enough. Maybe I pray the wrong thing to the wrong Person in the Trinity. If I misaddress the prayer will it end up undelivered? Maybe I am pointing my prayer in the wrong direction. Is it a beam or ever-widening concentric circles of prayer radiating out into space? Maybe I don't "assume the position" correctly.
So? How do you pray?
Or if that's a bit too personal a question...
How do you wipe?