I’m trying to learn how to pray better.
Now to the atheists reading this blog, I hear your eyes rolling. And it’s fine. Sometimes praying feels like the most ridiculous thing in the world. But the fact is I feel better when I do it, and, if I’m going to do it, I feel like I should at least try and figure out what the fuck I’m doing. Right now most of my praying time consists of me sitting there with my eyes closed, waiting for the coffee to be ready, like:
Me: Thank you God for another day. Please be with me as I just…
(Checks CNN his phone)
Ok, sorry, I’m back…um…please bless me as damn it I forgot to call that person back it’s ok I’ll do that later.
(Crosses legs. Pause. Uncrosses legs. Pause. Puts feet on coffee table. Pause.)
Forgive me of my many sins, some of which include lying, and….um…not being good…and uh…did the Cubs win last night I should check that no you’re praying you asshole.
Grant me serenity to accept not changing things and it’s Our Father not My Father so let me remember that everyone is my brother and….
Coffee’s ready! Amen!
End of play.
There has been one constant in my prayer life: I try not to ask God for things. That is because the one thing I feel like I know for sure is that God isn’t Santa Claus. Another reason I don’t ask for things is that I’m pretty convinced that what I want isn’t that good for me. All I really want in life is to write, do plays, and vacation in opium dens. And have lots of sex in between. And eat nothing but buffalo chicken salads and french fries with ice cream sandwiches for dessert. That is my best life, to which I am pretty sure God would say, “Yeah. No.”
But I’m trying to get better at praying, and I have been reading this amazing book, The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything. In this book the author, Father Martin, S.J, says that it’s ok to ask God for what you want. That it’s is a way to show trust and intimacy. He says that you would tell a friend what you wanted, so why wouldn’t you tell God?
So I tried it.
I went downstairs one morning last week, turned on the espresso maker, flipped on my hot water kettle, sat down on my couch, closed my eyes and said, “God, I want to act, I want to write plays, and I want to work.”
And that’s when I heard a voice. That voice said, “You want to be bigger than me.”
Now it wasn’t like I heard it out loud. I don’t want you to think I’m crazy. But I did hear it. Like on the inside, or something. I slowly opened my eyes, looked around, and directly went to my knees. The first thing that popped into my head was, “What the fuck does that mean?” Then I heard the water boil and was like “YAY COFFEE” and went about my day.
That thought nagged at me though, and this Saturday night, as my girlfriend and I were walking along the Battery, I told her. Now I would not call my girlfriend a religious person. She loves that I go to Mass on Sundays mainly because that means she’ll have the bed to herself and get to starfish. But she was listening very intently as I told her the whole story: the book I was reading, what I think heaven is, what I had asked for. That’s when she said the most remarkable thing. She said, “David.” I said, “Yes?” “I don’t mean to be rude,” she said, “but have you prayed to get better?”
When I heard those words I did that thing with your lips where you blow out air and they flutter. I did that because, of course, I hadn’t. I looked down at the water, saw a boat in the distance, and listened to the waves lap against the wall. When I took a moment to pray for what I wanted, even facing Stage 4 cancer, I asked for fame and fortune.
I used to tell my students that writing is rewriting and that the only way to succeed was through failure. As we walked back along the Battery I felt thankful. Thankful for my girlfriend’s sage question, thankful that I get to fail and try again, and thankful that God doesn’t make too hard of terms on those who seek him.