I was having a discussion with my friend Jan about changing the tone of our voice in certain situations. As women, we tend to use a deeper, firmer voice when we want to sound authoritarian. I hate to say this, but we often still associate a deep manly voice with authority.
We also associate a deep booming voice with God. Admit it. How many of you imagine a big, booming, deep, slow speaking voice when you think about God talking to Moses. We don’t really want to think that God sounds like George Burns in the movie, “O God.”
I see the same thing happening when we talk to God. Yes, I mean when we pray. A Pastor friend shared a story about this recently. He was sitting on the edge of his bed one morning and the conversation went like this.
“God, I lifteth my sock and place it upon my foot.” He used his big manly voice.
“What are doing?” His wife peeked into the room to see what was up.
“I restore my foot unto my shoe and ask your blessing upon my steps. I seek Your divine inspiration as I prepare my other foot for socking.”
By now, his wife was laughing and standing in front of him. “Really, what are you doing?”
He laughed and explained that this is how he feels in church sometimes. He wondered why prayers in church shouldn’t be more like prayers when no one is listening.
Here is my interpretation of the out loud voice of prayer. Remember, you have to use slow, methodical speech. You must use every variation of names you know for God. He may not hear you if you don’t use the right one.
“Father God, Lord of Creation, We humbly bow before you as we come into Your holy presence.
“We ask that Thou be with us as we prepare to partake of this meal, God, and we ask Thou to bless those who prepareth the food for your lowly servants.
“Lord God, we know we are not worthy of such a gracious feast, while our brethren in foreign lands hunger, not only for food, but for Your love and forgiveness.
“Jesus, Use this food today to nourish our bodies so that we may go forth from this place and be of service to You, O God and those less fortunate.”
Ok, I am going to be in enough trouble for this blog post, so I will stop here. This prayer would go on for about five minutes. By this time the babies are crying, the toddlers have turned something over, the little kids are putting their fingers into whatever they can reach, and some of the adults tuned out after the first thirty seconds.
I want to ask the same question as my Pastor friend. Why can’t my prayers aloud be like my prayers in private? I don’t offer to pray in front of others because I am afraid I won’t do it right. I know my theology will come into question as soon as I use the wrong name at the wrong time.
As a child, I was taught that God was a vengeful, punishing, controlling entity. God’s love had to be earned. Missing church and Sunday school or praying the wrong way would surely result in a bad mark in the judgment book. It would take many painful years to find my way to understand that God’s love is based on grace not fear.
In a post by Joy Cannis, she says this,
Because it is easier to read about prayer than to pray, I have shelves of books: meditations on the Lord’s Prayer by a dozen different authors; scholarly accounts of prayer in the twelfth century, the eighteenth century; Hasidic wisdom on prayer; manuals for knitting a prayer rug, a prayer shawl, a prayer blanket, a prayer tree. (I don’t alas, know how to knit.) Sometimes I think that all this reading gets in the way, that the books become excuses, something to do in lieu of praying. Other days, I know that to read about prayer is at least to indulge my desire, to acknowledge that I want this thing, that I long for it…
I am in long term recovery from alcohol and drugs. In twelve-step recovery groups, step 11 says, Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out. The key to this for me has been developing that conscious contact. Prayer has become a way of life not an act to perform. I have moments when the only prayer I can offer is “God, I can’t do this.” I know He hears that prayer, even without the right voice and proper words.
It should come as no surprise that I am using a quote from Anne Lamott.
“Help” is a prayer that is always answered. It doesn’t matter how you pray–with your head bowed in silence, or crying out in grief, or dancing. Churches are good for prayer, but so are garages and cars and mountains and showers and dance floors. Years ago I wrote an essay that began, “Some people think that God is in the details, but I have come to believe that God is in the bathroom.”
― Anne Lamott, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith