Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Baptizing Dishes and Other Weird Ways to Pray.
Flickr photo by seizethedave, creative commons
I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I'm really bad at prayer.
Whether I try to pray as I pull up the covers at the end of the day or give it another go after morning coffee has jolted me into speed mode, mere seconds after I force stillness, my mind drifts. I start thinking about tomatoes or why the vacuum cleaner doesn't work anymore or the fact that I never sent that graduation gift and it's been a month already. Sometimes I play Prayer Policeman, constantly pulling myself over for a lecture, then returning to the road to drift again. Other times I just fall asleep.
Prayer is hard work. Some people are better at it than others.
It even wore Moses out once in a while.
Want to hear a story from one of the TOP TEN WEIRDEST BIBLE STORIES EVER?
Sure you do!
God's people were fresh out of Egypt. Moses had asked God for food, and He treated them to manna and quail, and then water from a rock. Life was looking doable.
Then the Amalekites attacked. Moses had Joshua pick men for the battle and climbed to the top of the hill, taking along his brother Aaron and buddy Hur.
Yep, I know this doesn't sound that strange so far. Hold tight.
The weirdness cometh.
Moses stands on the hill and raises his walking stick into the sky.
Remember the stick? The one he threw down in front of the king, and they watched it turn into a snake? He holds it high where everyone can see, and he keeps it there.
We assume he's praying, since this was a common prayer stance in those times.
His men are fighting, he holds the stick, and he notices that something weird is happening.
"As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning."
Exodus 17: 11
Crazy, huh? It's like a cartoon. Up, down. Up, down. Up.
He better not stop praying but his arms are so tired. Aaron and Hur step in to save the day.
"When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword."
Ever since I've read this story, I've been trying to figure out what it means.
What do you think?
Here's what I've come up with:
1. For the God's people to succeed here, they needed to fight AND Moses needed to pray.
Prayer + Action can lead to the fulfillment of God's will.
2. It encourages people to know that they're being prayed for. God can use that encouragement to heal them or their situation.
3. I need people in my life to bring in the stone, to hold up my arms, to support me in my relationship with God.
Today I'm thinking about Point #3. It's so helpful to see the different ways my friends connect with God. I find it all over the blogosphere and right in my hometown, with my neighbors and friends. When I see that there is more than one way to be still with God, I think, hey, maybe I'm not a prayer failure after all.
Barbara Brown Taylor reminds me too with her exquisite, arm lifting words. Until I devoured her book, An Altar in the World, I thought it was a little weird that I connected best with God while doing mind-numbing chores.
It sounds corny and silly and maybe a little Pollyanna to find God in mundane housework, and I'm really not so Betty Homemaker (though my family and I wish I would be!) but it happens that way quite often for me.
So when I read Barbara's words that pinning wet laundry on a clothesline made her think of hanging out prayer flags for God, that housework could actually become a spiritual practice, I heard myself sigh with relief.
Maybe I know how to pray after all!
So what if it sounds crazy that as I dip my dishes in the sudsy water and lift them out again, my brain flickers phrases of being washed clean, burial and resurrection.
So I baptize my dishes. I'm enjoying God and celebrating who He is.
(And I see myself in the baked on grime. The kind that requires a scouring pad!)
I clean the toothpaste flecks off the bathroom mirror and a voice pops up, "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face" "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast." I enjoy the scripture, wipe the mirror, and feel my brow relax.
Sometimes it happens when I'm not cleaning, too. I'll watch my boys dip Oreos in milk, and a wafer and chalice will spring to mind. I pour myself a glass and join them. "For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." I don't have to bring up God. I know He's there. Ben and Sam and I joke around or just enjoy the cookies, and I thank God for His presence and for blessing me with these kids.
And today I'm thanking him for one of the weirdest Bible stories ever.
I hate to admit it, but it made me think of the video below. (Sorry, Moses, but it does.)
Enjoy the weirdness. And then, if you feel like it, I'd love to hear from you.
When and where do you best connect with God? In your garden? While driving? In a quiet time? Or maybe in desperation at Chuck E. Cheese?
Have a great Wednesday!