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Super Awesome Prayer Host

February 21, 2012

Prayer is one of those elusive spiritual concepts that everyone is still trying to figure out, I think.

I make an effort to pray frequently, even at work, but am often left with the sense that I am not doing it right. I generally assume that others are doing a better job than me.

I take comfort in the hope that I am not alone in this feeling. In fact, while observing many public prayers over the years, I have collected quite a range of prayer faux pas, reminding us that we are all bungling through this thing together.

For instance, I recently I attended a contemporary church service (or, I should say, a traditional church pretending to attempt a contemporary service) where at a certain point one of the leaders, a layperson, walked up and down the aisle between the pews with a microphone, taking requests prior to leading the congregation in prayer.

The longer he held that microphone, the more he believed that he had missed his calling as a talk show host.

It started rather routinely: “Who has a prayer request? You? In the back?” Charlie rushed down the aisle to hand the microphone to the congregant, a distinguished gentleman in a Brooks Brothers jacket.

“Yes, please pray for my Uncle Phil, who is undergoing surgery tomorrow.”

“Great. Uncle Phil. We’ll lift him up to the Lord. Who else? Come on, don’t be shy!”

Charlie was just warming up, as he strode deftly back around to the front pews.

“Yes, young lady?” Charlie reached across the long pew to a middle-aged woman who squeezed over several people to the mike.

“Just wanted to thank God for bringing my son safely back from Iraq,” she gushed. People clapped.

“Excellent! Wonderful!” You could tell Charlie truly enjoyed being in the spotlight. But he wanted more prayers.

The woman behind her, an uninhibited visitor who was clearly unfamiliar with this unfolding situation, stood up and reached out excitedly for the microphone. Charlie quickly rushed to her side.

“I’d just like to give a shout-out to my brother and his wife, who are leaving for Cancun today!” she squealed loudly into the mike, while rotating her body to get a good 360 degree view of the sanctuary. “Can you believe it? Those lucky dogs!”

“Excellent! Let’s pray that they have safe travels.” She sat back down and slapped her companion several times on the knee, in a jittery twitch.

Another hand in the left rear was raised for his attention. Charlie picked up the pace. “Yes, Don. What is it?” The mike was passed to the center of the pew.

“My brother passed away on Tuesday,” Don said in a grave tone.

“Great!” Charlie said enthusiastically as the microphone came back. “Don’s brother passed away. Excellent!”

I don’t think Don would have agreed that his brother’s passing was great, or excellent. But Charlie had the mike, and that’s how the prayer request went down.

I felt bad for Don, so I said a special prayer for him.

Thanks to Nance Marie for the photo.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. February 21, 2012 10:30 am

    This is hilarious. I’ve seen it, but you described it perfectly. I loved the line about a traditional church attempting to present itself as contemporary.

    BTW, thanks for the parenting comment. You’re just farther enough along this road to have good advice.

  2. February 21, 2012 11:36 am

    One night during a visit to Argentina I was helping my friend wash dishes. We were deep in conversation, as deep as one can be, anyway, when one has to stop every few sentences and translate. My husband, who was graciously trying to minimize the need for the interpretation pauses, had begun to feign comprehension and had taken to nodding emphatically and throwing in an occasional chuckle, “O, bueno!” and the like. Unfortunately, this started right about the time my friend shared that her mother was gravely ill and near death. He looked at her, grinned wide and before I could tell him what she’d said, blurted out, “Qué perfecto!” My friend, who loved my husband like a brother, was kind and understanding (and greatly amused). My husband was properly embarrassed.

    It’s too bad Charlie wasn’t properly embarrassed too. And it’s too bad some of us have so painfully lost our way.

    Great piece, Bradley.

    • February 25, 2012 5:34 pm

      Great story, Lyla. But that would be excusable when using a completely new language. No, Charlie was oblivious. Maybe he was just too excited being in the public spotlight. I was the one embarrassed.

  3. February 21, 2012 11:58 am

    Agreeing with Megan and Lyla here. That was a funny piece, until it turned painful.

    You raise a good point about how many of us are struggling with not knowing whether or not we’re doing prayer right. I would have said that, for the better part of two very painful years, I didn’t pray at all. Looking back, I can see many ways in which my soul cried out to God, or merely sat listening quietly for Him. Guess I was praying after all or, as I’m learning to refer to it, enjoying communion with God.

    • February 25, 2012 5:36 pm

      Nancy, I do believe sometimes prayer can be non-verbal, like you say – “my soul crying out.” God transcends our feeble words and attempts at communication. I always remember what mother Theresa said when someone asked her what God says to her when she prays. “Nothing,” she said. “He’s just listening.” And then they asked a follow up question. “So what do you say when you pray?” “Nothing,” she responded. “I just listen.”

      I think that’s the way prayer is sometimes.

  4. February 21, 2012 12:19 pm

    i have found that taking time to say “thank You” to God,
    for example, thank you for_____ and thank you for____ etc.,
    is the best way for me to “start” or enter into a conversation with God when i am alone.

    but, it could also be a way for a group to start as well.

    group prayer “requests” have always been strange to me.
    i personally think that each person with a prayer should just pray their prayer aloud…and those near enough to hear that prayer can say a prayer as well.

    your post makes me laugh at how we really do bungle through…

    ~ side note:
    thanks for the photo use.
    always fun to see one here.

    • February 25, 2012 5:38 pm

      Thanks for the use of your great photos, Nance.

      We are running a small group at our house with a few other couples. I am always surprised at the end when we circle up to pray and hold hands, everyone says a prayer. The rule is that it’s okay to just pass and squeeze the hand of the person next to you, and I always think I will be the only one who prays. But after we share together for a couple hours, everyone wants to say something to God.

  5. February 21, 2012 2:39 pm

    I believe prayer is talking to God, and I talk to the Lord all the time–like I would you if you were with me all the time. Sometimes I am asking how to do something at work; sometimes one of my kids drops into my mind, and I thank Him that His mercy is hovering over them and that they are covered with the Blood of Jesus; sometimes I just like to look at Him, sitting above me with rainbows moving all around Him, and just take in His loveliness and feel His love enveloping me. He created us to fellowship with Him–to BE with Him.

    This past weekend, I took three of my granddaughters to Disney (14,14 & 12). I walked a couple of feet behind most of the time–making sure they were in my site all the time. I was not privy to everything they said, but I saw and heard them laughing, and I enjoyed that they were enjoying the day. We had a good time, and I was with them–but not really of certain things. However, I would not be ok with it if I lived with them and they treated me like I wasn’t there–even part of the time. I never again, in my life, want my Lord to have to go through that with me. I want to keep my mind stayed on Him by the power of the Holy Spirit–all the time. I believe we must choose each moment who we are going to serve. It is surely not an easy thing–what with the world and all its “stuff” clamoring for our attention–but it is the only way I have ever found to stay in the secret place–that place of peace, freedom from fear, aggravating passions and moral conflicts. That place that can only be entered through the door which is our Savior.

  6. sawyerspeaks permalink
    February 21, 2012 3:18 pm

    Very funny, and very evocative. Thanks!

  7. February 21, 2012 11:20 pm

    I’m not sure I was supposed to laugh but I did. That’s too bad. I read the book, the Presence Based Church a few years back and it really changed my thinking on prayer in church. Can you imagine going into the board room to pray at work?

  8. February 22, 2012 8:31 am

    This was a very funny post. I could just see the Phil donahue host, walking the aisles. A perfect description.

    His brushing off of the man’s brother dying is kind of typical though. We hear these terrible situations and blow them off really, not praying, not following up, not all that concerned. At least the talk show host prayer leader was honest about it.

  9. restorel66 permalink
    February 23, 2012 10:32 pm

    Brad,
    great story, great bit of writing. Glad I read it to the end!

  10. Mike Holmes permalink
    February 25, 2012 4:42 pm

    Bradley,

    What are you doing at my church??!! 😀

  11. February 26, 2012 10:37 am

    Funny but sad.Great example of the importance of listening and being attentive.

  12. March 9, 2012 8:39 am

    I was going to say what Dan did, but really, for some reason, this whole piece made me squirm.

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