Saturday, November 29, 2008

And what would an all-American Thanksgiving family visit be without some soul-searching on one's religious practices?

I was up early on Thursday morning to help cook. My Nanny and I decided not to wait on everyone else for breakfast, and as we were preparing to sit down to eat, she asked me to bless the food (this is considered a big honor in my family). I was caught totally off-guard - 1) I'd never been asked before, and 2) I haven't prayed publicly since, uh, my God-Is-Great, God-Is-Good days of preschool. As I was mentally scrambling to come up with something appropriate, reverent, and coherent pre-coffee, the only thing that popped in my head was, "Dearly Beloved...we are gathered here today to get through this thing called Life...". At this I came very close to cracking myself up - it was all I could do to hold it together, and eventually the expected "blessthisfoodtothenourishmentofourbodiesourbodiestoYourserviceinHisnameAmen" sort of tumbled out, and (shockingly) God did not strike me dead on the spot for trying to speak to Him through Prince lyrics. All through breakfast I was perturbed (guess I still am, since I'm posting about it 2 days later) - what does it say about me that I don't know how to pray anymore?

Let me clarify: I still pray often, almost every day. But my words aren't flowery, or the stoic prose I've heard from my elderly uncles my whole life, nor the 10-minute monologue I've sat through in countless church services. It's quick, not even spoken - just a thought, or a feeling. "Please watch over J today"; "Please let the cat's foot feel better". It's not offered as a lowly request, but it's not flippant (although I admit, my gut reaction was to end the breakfast blessing "Peace out. Love, Me", which is stupid, I know).

In a way, it made me feel uncomfortable beyond just being put on the spot - I consider my prayer kind of a private thing, but I think that since my heathen non-churchgoing ways can be a sore spot, I'm probably overthinking it. But it made me curious how other people feel about it:

Do you pray often? How/where/when do you pray?


The Bouldins said...

We bless our food. Usually holding hands around the table and praying out loud. We're not the type you'll see in restaurants doing the group head bow and two-minute mumble, but at home we do it at most meals.

Other than that, our prayer lives are more individual. I've been wanting to start a family evening prayer time ... a more in-depth prayer than just We Appreciate Our Food.

I don't think you're off. If I sat down to breakfast with my grandmother and she asked me to pray, I'd probably be taken aback as well. In fact, as we sat at the Thanksgiving table on Thursday, Christopher, Jamie, Dave and I all pointed to each other to give the prayer. :)

jamie said...

OK, the Prince lyrics? Almost made me cry. That is the funniest thing I've heard in a long time. Dude.

Anyway, prayer is a struggle for me. I have a hard time talking to God. I believe very strongly in him and in my faith, I just haven't had a dialogue in a while. I'm working on it, though. In high school (pre-G&J BFF days) I was the big pray-in-front-of-everyone-flowery-prose kid and I think I just got tired of posturing, and I haven't been able to get back into a good Jamie-to-God conversation groove.

I think you have the right idea - it should be more of a conversation and more regularly throughout your day than 15 minutes of your morning kneeling in a corner. But, different strokes, etc. etc.

Electric Monk said...

Prayer is SUPPOSED to be conversational. I really try to make my prayers to God sound like my prayers to anyone else, otherwise they're just rote liturgy. No "thee"s or "thou"s, and mine don't tend to be very long. Just like when I talk to people, I get to the point and move on. I think God is way more impressed by the sincerity of a prayer than the length or floweriness.

The ultimate example is the Lord's Prayer. I mean, you could recite that thing in like twenty seconds, it's really simple, and I suspect was not actually as flowery as the King James version we all learned in Sunday School.

Scandalous Housewife said...

I think the whole uncomfortable thing about your prayer was being put on the spot to perform it. That was probably coupled with the unspoken guilt of not following in the same religious footsteps as some of your family. There is always an unspoken tension at my in-laws home around prayer time, since my husband and I have broken from the family church. My mother-in-law always throws some wrench of guilt in the hopes of luring us back from the burning fires of hell, but we never bite. We just get pissed...