When I find myself particularly exasperated or frustrated with the world – trifling example: shoveling yet more snow and chopping layers of ice but my car still won’t make the tight turn into the garage – there is a habitual expression that spontaneously comes out of my mouth, “Oh God, come to my assistance!” “Now!” is an implicit directive to the illusive Presence in my day. No, it’s not some pious, anesthetized whimper recited too often, too easily, during the years I technically had an obligation to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. No, my plea for assistance today is part despair, part admonition (of that absent third-party I often allege to be God), part remorse, part resignation, part desperation. Whoever composed the Liturgy of the Hours knew what real prayer is like! Yes, all prayer really needs to begin with “Come!” Pairing the rejoinder, “Lord, make haste to help me!” was singularly perfect and sheer genius. Often, “Now!” is not any too soon.
If you read my previous posting, you already know that I’m big on “skin in the game” when it comes to prayer. For God’s sake, isn’t that what the Incarnation was all about? We sanitize the Manger scene into something sentimental, warm and cozy. C’mon, was it? Is that what our world needs today?
Some days I don’t know if I even know how to pray anymore! Sometimes the best I do is that spontaneous muttering, “Oh, God!” Sometimes I even question whether God has enough “skin in the game.” I am consoled by a quote that came to me yesterday via Frederick Buechner on Twitter. He directs us to Ann Lamott in Help Thanks Wow:
“Sometimes the first time we pray, we cry out in the deepest desperation, “God help me.” This is a great prayer, as we are then at our absolutely most degraded and isolated, which means we are nice and juicy with the consequences of our best thinking and are thus possibly teachable.
Or I might be in one of my dangerously good moods and say casually: “Hey, hi, Person. Me again. The princess. Thank you for my sobriety, my grandson, my flowering pear tree.”
Or you might shout at the top of your lungs or whisper into your sleeve, “I hate you, God.” That is a prayer, too, because it is real, it is truth, and maybe it is the first sincere thought you’ve had in months.”
Real, true and sincere! Pretty good criteria for prayer in my book!