I'll gather with family late this afternoon, will spend most of the weekend surrounded by people I love who will also once or twice drive me crazy. It's OK; I give as good as I get, crazy-driving-wise.
But I have the early part of this day to myself. I will spend some time eating the trial pie I made that didn't work out quite as well as I'd hoped, making a new pie and hoping it turns out better, reflecting on the difficult nature of this holiday and its origins in this country, and praying.
But first, I'm going to talk to you a bunch about prayer. Those of you who are uncomfortable with that are warned.
Here is how I pray:
- Sometimes, very formally*
- Sometimes, very frantically**
- Sometimes, for someone else who might need it***
- Sometimes, for me when I need it****
- Sometimes, thankfully*****
Here is why I pray:
I think it builds relationship. Specifically (but not exclusively) my relationship to God. I think God likes it when I engage that way. I do that with people, too; I write here, I talk a bunch, I check in. I am most comfortable in relationship to anyone when I'm in communication. And though people sometimes misunderstand my imperfect words, God takes them how I mean them, every time.
Also, with God, no pressure to be funny. I like that.
When I was a kid, my grandfather kept chocolate around, which he would frequently and generously offer to his grandchildren (and probably everyone else, but this is about me). One day, I swiped a piece out of the kitchen. I didn't think of it as swiping; I thought of it as mine, frankly. But I got caught, and my mother impressed upon me — firmly — that if I wanted my grandfather's chocolate, I needed to ask him for it. And right then, I needed to go talk to him about taking it.
Prayer is not about getting what I want. It's about the act of asking for what I want. And then, it's about expressing gratitude for what I have, even the things I didn't know enough to ask for. Whether I talked to my grandfather or just took it, I was still getting chocolate out of the deal. But the chocolate was offered by someone who was generous and loved me, so I'd know it. And my communication with him, whether about chocolate or the Red Sox or World War II was what I, as a child, had to offer to the relationship.
Prayer, for me, isn't a magic ATM; it's a conversation. Furthermore, it's a conversation with someone who already knows everything and can do everything. The power differential is bigger than mine and my grandfather's — even bigger, if you can imagine. All I have to offer back to this relationship is my commitment to the relationship itself.
And there are folks for whom my method of prayer doesn't work, and those for whom any method of prayer doesn't make sense. I both understand and respect that. We all build relationships differently, and with different people and things.
Day 22 of my month of gratitude: I am thankful beyond words for my relationship to the Divine, and for being loved despite my imperfect expressions of love — unconditionally, in fact. I am thankful for material and relational abundances. I am thankful for grace and peace and joy, and for my opportunities — too infrequently taken — to strengthen them all.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
* For example: Almighty and gracious Father, I give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make me, I pray, a faithful steward of your great bounty, for the provision of necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name, through Jesus Christ the Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. There's lots more where that came from in The Book of Common Prayer.
** For example: Please oh please God let me get to the next gas station. Please God please please please let me have enough gas just to get to the next gas station. Please.
*** For example: Please, God, be with him and keep him safe through this hard time.
**** For example: Please, help me to make the right choice here. Please help me to see what I should do.
***** For example: Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou Lord.