Praying in reverse

Photo by Max Böhme on Unsplash

Cal (our resident theologian) did a listening exercise with some of his friends yesterday and sent me this. This is what he heard when he listened.

Ed.

.

“You put yourself first and leave me as an afterthought.

I’m your dad, I really am.

And I love you, I really do.”

.

“Deliver us from harm

Lead us from temptation

We forgive our debtors

Forgive our debts

Give us today our daily bread

On earth as in heaven

Your will be done

Your kingdom come

Your name be hallowed

Our Father in heaven”

.

10 short statements. The most repeated prayer. Ever.

Although when we recite it in public we say it the other way round.

Often when I try to pray about something, I start with something like, “Help me … please!”

“Please stop this virus”

“Please heal (…)”

“Please help (…) who’s a key worker”

“Please make Boris better”

Then, maybe I’ll ask for help with a meeting I’m anxious about, or ‘God, please bless my loved ones’, or say sorry for a bunch more sins.

Then, maybe, only ‘maybe’ (and only sometimes), will I remember that I’m talking to someone who spoke the Milky Way into being. Who made an atom of oxygen.

And who’s asked me to call him ‘Dad’.

I use the Lord’s Prayer as a template most days. But really, I think I pray it in reverse.

Maybe that’s not a bad thing. At least I pray. Even though the cart goes before the horse, it’s better than having no horse and no cart at all. It’s more that the journey will be a lot more hassle.

I remember reading Joyce Huggett’s book ‘Listening to God’ years ago. In it she quotes the late Stephen Verney, a former Anglican Bishop. Verney suggests there are three stages of prayer:

“… first, ‘it is me and him’. I come to prayer conscious of myself, my need, my desires. I pour these out to God. Second, prayer becomes ‘him and me’. Gradually I become more conscious of the presence of God than of myself. ‘Then it is only him’.”

In my experience, I have to add a fourth stage before the others: ‘Me’. Which, if I’m honest, is how I live most of the time.

I guess that when most of us come to prayer we’re crowded with anxieties, needs, regrets, distractions, hopes and fears clamouring for attention. All shouting out silently, “Me first, me first”.

So I’m going to make a conscious effort to think of my Dad first.

My Father who is in the heavens. But also closer than breathing.

.

“You put yourself first and leave me as an afterthought.

I’m your dad, I really am.

And I love you, I really do.”

Cal

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