Thursday, February 17, 2011

You never know…

We’ve all heard of things happening that, yeah, sure, whatever, it must happen somewhere, to someone- lucky gal- but it never, ever happens to me! Harrumph. Like winning the lottery. Inheriting a Caribbean island from a long-lost uncle. Getting picked for Survivor. Well, I’m proud to inform you- and please don’t take this as gloating- something like that finally happened to me!

Here’s what went down. Recently, my wife and I were on a midweek date. We’d purchased a Groupon coupon for a joint called Pizza Mia. $15 for $30 worth of food. Not too shabby, right? Anyway, there we were, talking about work, family, the incredible goings-on in Egypt and all the stuff you talk about over dinner. The waiter brought our food. We bowed our heads in thankful prayer. Food started disappearing off our plates, into our bellies, when suddenly, this random guy walked up to us. “Hi,” he said smiling, obviously another satisfied customer on his way out the door, “I just wanted to tell you how much your prayer blessed me.” “Huh. Thanks,” we said, “We’re glad!” He shook our hands and left.

Unexpected interruption, certainly, but quite nice, right? We smiled at each other, said, “How cool,” and continued our meal. As it ended, we gave the coupon to the waiter and asked for the check. But he hesitated, like he was searching for words. I thought, “How hard can it be to say, ‘Yes, I’ll get your check’…” Then it happened, that thing that never happens to me- He said, “Actually, your check has already been paid for.” “What?!” we responded, “Even the tip?!” “Yep, another customer took care of everything. Have a nice night.” I looked at Tabitha shocked. She reciprocated, then broke into a grin. “I bet I know who did that,” she said. “I bet I do too…”

I’ve heard many a people over the years pontificate about the power of prayer. Sometimes they say profound things. Sometimes it’s more about what they hope is true regarding prayer, than what’s theologically justifiable. Apparently, though, they are sometimes unintended, unexpected benefits of prayer, as my dinner check example means to illustrate. It was, of course, a completely random act; whether we said something the guy liked, or he was simply moved by witnessing two young adults with heads bowed in public, I’ll never know. I.e. God wasn’t rewarding us for a prayer well prayed! Still, have you taken time recently to consider the side effects of prayer?

I frame the question that way because we probably think the primary effects of prayer are that, well, we get what we pray for. Take my example- I prayed, “God, bless this food and the hands that prepared it, so we may be stewards of their and all your gifts.” Did God actually give that blessing? I got a reduced cost meal, but I’ve prayed that prayer many times without that result. Besides, I asked for a food blessing and got something else. Or when we pray the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy Kingdom come on earth.” Does that happen?

...Yes, I think it does. But I wonder if we’re often not expecting the answer we get. We pray, “God, bless this food,” or, “Thy Kingdom come on earth,” and while we may mean many different things by that, we should always also intend this - That we’ll feel, in our midst, even if for just that moment, God’s goodness and presence. Food being blessed, God’s Kingdom coming on earth, one way to define those prayers is that we experience- spiritually, emotionally, physically- the reality of our loving God, who wants to provide our every need. And when you ask God for those things, you intentionally put yourself in God’s presence. Meaning- You’re receiving the primary effect of your prayer as you pray. If you’re paying attention, that is.

So back to the original question, “What are the side effects of prayer?” I’ll get into that next week; space has run out! But send me your thoughts, take time to pray, and then recall that the most popular mantra (a Hindu and Buddhist prayer-like tradition) in the world is…Ohm. Which means,


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