Personal Prayers, part 3

So what were those Quakers doing, anyway? They spoke no formal prayers, read no Scriptures, proclaimed no proclamations. They didn’t spell anything out. They didn’t exult or shout. What kind of church service was that?

Well, it was one where the congregation waited. The Bible has a lot of positive things to say about waiting. But maybe, friend, you don’t like the Bible. I understand that! For decades, I intensely disliked it. It seemed like a nasty magic trick with a hidden trap door. I would read, things would be going along all right, and then suddenly a hand would shoot through the pages for the express purpose of smearing a fistful of feces on my face. There are people who love the Bible because they think that’s exactly what it does — to other people, of course.

So maybe the Bible isn’t your favorite thing, and maybe the God of the Bible isn’t a big favorite, either. But let’s try something. There are some words coming up. If you could artfully forget their origin for a moment, if you could feign ignorance to yourself, what would your reaction be to this:

I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.
My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning.

At the Quaker meeting, we waited. Surely that is prayer. Maybe when a community learns how to wait and does it persistently, week after week and year after year, they make space for God to pay a closer visit, ruffling their hair, tweaking their shirt collars, itching their legs — waking them a little, and a little more.

I didn’t stay with the Friends long; I needed all the things they managed so beautifully without.

Why did You make us dependent on all these words, then? You who can do anything, why did You stuff our heads with them? Why not communicate direct! Here’s my theory: It would be too easy. You’d get bored. It would be like playing a kid’s game. You had to tear up half the deck and throw in some loaded dice to keep Yourself interested.

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