When You Haven’t Got a Prayer

Have you ever thought that the “praying hands” emoji is really the one for high-fiving someone? They sure look alike, and there is an online debate about which is the correct answer. I like high-fives, but I need prayers more. I need a high-five from God that can come from prayer! “Turn your worries into prayers,” is a phrase I often hear from my wife Cindy, who is a wonderful intercessor. She has tried to keep me from worrying about worrying, which I easily do. List-making, added to more than a little bit of obsessive-compulsive disorder, and a semi-eidetic memory are just a few of the ingredients that cause me to naturally worry. If only, I could turn my worries into prayers.

I remember the first days and years of my faith when I could literally feel God close. God was nearer than my breath, the Grand Thought behind all my thinking. God overwhelmed my sub-conscious. God is still there. I’m the one who has usurped His responsibility and moved more towards my will than His.

Remember the days when front seats in a car were one long bench without a gear-shift console divider? There was an older man and his same-aged wife who were traveling in such a car. The guy was driving and his wife was sitting next to the passenger side door when they came up on a young couple who were in the car in front of them. The young couple was sitting so close to each other that they looked like a two-headed monster. The older woman pointed to the young couple and asked her husband, “Why don’t we do that anymore?” Her husband replied, “I haven’t moved.” Ouch!

God hasn’t moved either. Our worries do not consume us because God is distant, but because we have become distant from God. Prayer is the connecting link that we have not exercised in a long time. It is that needed exercise for both our souls and minds. Prayer strengthens us spiritually and emotionally. And, it’s a dialogue. Too often it’s a time when we tell God everything we need or what those we love need. Effective prayer is a two-way street where we listen for God’s nudging responses and clarity.

Recently I did a funeral for a wonderful man who was an engineer to the core. He puzzled out problems for a living. In my mind he had one of the most delightful ways of turning things over to God. He would get up in the middle of the night, fill a bowl of ice cream and pray. He told his family, “By the time I finished that bowl of ice cream everything was all figured out.”

Some of us pray while we drive. Some of us, out of desperation, pray while we ride with others, or when we’re about to face some sort of health scare. Others of us pray like it’s our second breath, breath-prayers exhaling our worries and inhaling the Holy Spirit’s answers to our worries. Sally Deford puts it this way in her poem and hymn, “Prayer is the Soul’s Sincere Desire:”

Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire
Uttered or unexpressed
The motion of a hidden fire
That trembles in the breast

Prayer is the burden of a sigh
The falling of a tear
The upward glancing of an eye
When none but God is near

Prayer is the simplest form of speech
That infant lips can try
Prayer, the sublimest strains that reach
The Majesty on high

Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath
The Christian’s native air
His watchword at the gates of death
He enters heav’n with prayer

Prayer is the contrite sinner’s voice
Returning from his ways
While angels in their songs rejoice
And cry, “Behold! He prays!”

Nor prayer is made on earth alone
The Holy Spirit pleads
And Jesus at the Father’s throne
For sinners intercedes

O thou by whom we come to God
The Life, the Truth, the Way
The path of prayer thyself hast trod
Lord, teach us how to pray

 

May God hear your desires and give you peace, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

The Personal Touch in a Cyber World

Facebook and Twitter are sources of amusement and information for me. I’m not that into posting things on either, but I like seeing other people’s posts. I did get really animated while taking prednisone for bronchitis two football seasons ago. I found myself posting tweets throughout the game. I literally couldn’t stop. I was typing like a banshee and faster than the TV announcers. It was hilarious! Someone later remarked that they hoped I was going to keep posting during future games because it was such a hoot. No way!

You know the drill. Posting on social media is such an interesting way to chronicle our daily lives. Some people tell us everything from their latest meal including a photo, to how well their vacation is going. It doesn’t bother me. It lets me know what’s going on in my friends’ lives. Of course, I don’t want or need to know everything. I am extremely grateful for the posts that ask for prayer. The ones that border on narcissism don’t do much for me. Occasionally I will unfriend someone if they become so self-absorbed or xenophobic about their particular brand of whatever. Racism, political hubris and anything like elitism is more than I can bear, except, of course, when it comes to my favorite college football team. That’s fine.

Some people spend an inordinate amount of time posting or messaging their minute by minute status. It makes one wonder how much work they’re getting done. I do like Twitter’s 140 character limit, but some folks string their tweets together like an unending stream of consciousness. Facebook is where I mainly troll. I call it “trolling” because that’s what I do. I did it as a District Superintendent to see what was going on with the clergy and churches, and especially to find out if anyone was posting something that they shouldn’t. On more than one occasion there were posts that were inappropriate and told me more than anyone’s results on their battery of psychological tests. Not a good thing. Won’t you agree that our use of social media says a lot about who we are? I guess my blogging does the same thing about me.

Truth be told, I prefer Pinterest because I learn new information, styles, DIY projects, and great ideas on any preferred subject. I hardly ever pin anything. Pinterest is more informational than social. Facebook allows me to wish my friends’ a “Happy Birthday,” etcetera. I sometimes shed tears when a deceased friend’s birthday pops up. I’m torn between going ahead and sending salutations or not. All in all, social media is a great thing, if we look up more than we look down at our pocket computers or at our desktop central commands. Social media is a great thing if it promotes community, and if we know proper boundaries. What we put out there is permanent! You can go back and edit a post but it’s going to have “edited” up in the right hand corner. By then it’s too late. We must use caution!

Don’t misunderstand me. I like this new-fangled world we live in, but I don’t want my cyber-life to take more time than my real life. I can text with the best of them and enjoy using internet slang. I’m fond of the abbreviations of “smh” – “Shaking my head,” “lol” – “Laughing out loud,” or my personal favorite, “IMHO” – “In my honest opinion.” Of course, here’s where it all gets tough for me. Can I truly express my honest opinion with all of its give and take; i.e., “Well I like this, but here’s another approach.” I can talk faster than I can type plus verbal communication has nuances and tones that communicate much more than some cute emoji. I can’t tell if someone is being ironic, sarcastic, or for real when our social interaction is reduced to initials and symbols.

I recently had a situation where someone texted me and I wasn’t at all sure whether they meant one thing or another, so I didn’t respond. Later we saw each other and he asked me why I didn’t text back. I told him I wasn’t sure what he meant. He then explained that what he said was sarcastic. I pulled up the text, showed it to him and asked, “How was I supposed to figure that out?” Well, we finally understood each other. Have you ever gotten a text and without face-to-face interaction you had no clue what the real or hidden meaning was?

I guess the point of this blog is to say a couple of things: be careful with what you post because it says a lot about who you are; beware any communication that’s a one-way street because that doesn’t promote real community; and make sure you look up more than you look down at a screen because people are real and we need to be heart readers more than twitter followers.

There’s a story that gets at what I’m trying to say. There was an anthropologist who regularly went to a small village in western Africa and spent time poking around and learning the culture. During one visit she discovered a collection of new TV sets stacked 4 deep in a hut at the edge of the village. The village had acquired electricity just a few years earlier, and, no doubt, some manufacturer or benefactor had presented the village with the wonderful TV’s. The anthropologist was confused by the fact that they weren’t being used, so she went to talk to the village chief. She asked him why they didn’t use the televisions. He replied, “We have our storyteller.” The anthropologist pressed further, “Maybe so, but television has the capacity of thousands of stories.” “That’s true,” said the chief, “but our storyteller knows us.”

In all our social media platforms, never let us forget that the best way to enrich society and community is through personal contact. Superficial cyber relationships are important, but are nothing compared to intimate personal knowledge and face-to-face interaction. A pastor who’s up on all the latest in social media is great, but most people want one that “knows” them. Do both well and it will be an improvement.

Social Media