Most books on prayer bore the shit out of me.
Most people, it seems in my rather limited sample, who write on prayer tend to see prayer as a way to be quiet, move away from the noise of life; prayer is seen as some kind of intra-personal communication with God that involves a lot of listening. I can read about 4 pages of that.
Even worse, when it comes to prayer, most of the advice borders on the same. Get away from the busy-ness/business of life, find a quiet spot, turn off the iTunes, and listen for God. Nope, not me. My grandfather, for example, could spend the first half-hour of a day in silence listening for God, meditating upon scripture, and praying. I read Aldo Leopold. (It was the only book my grandpa had besides the Bible.)
It seems that when we get to thinking about spirituality these days, we are immediately connected up with the quiet, contemplative life that leads us away from the drudgery and noise of our current condition. I am not interested in that kind of spirituality. I am not interested in a spirituality that leads me away from life, but rather one that leads me into life. Consequently, it has never made sense to me that I should find my energy for my spiritual life outside of the places where I find the Spirit. I don’t find the Spirit on a mountain or a hill or a garden. I rarely see God in a place like this
I usually ask, “Where are the elk?”
Here’s where I get my energy So it seems to me that if I am going to find a way to reconnect to God, I should go to a place like this. Because that’s where I find it best to participate with God. My spirituality does not remove myself from crowds, music, stimulation, and conversation, but drives me deeper into it.
A lot of “spiritual-talk” these days sounds like a cross between Yoga, a fitness workout, an audiogram, and a nap. But after 40 years of trying–the quiet, contemplative, pristine environments that lead many to God, a sense of purpose and meaning, and a re-connection to the energy of life, leads me to a bar.(I am not advocating one must do one OR the other, we’re talking about preferences here, and the quiet, contemplative spirituality that seems all the rage these days must work for some people…just not me. It frustrates me that people even want to turn my bars into places where we can “talk about important stuff,” “share our stories,” and “be spiritual and pray amidst the chaos.” No thanks. I want a lot of drums, and a decent bass.)
I am like Shakespeare’s Falstaff “Thou knowest in the state of innocency Adam fell, and what should poor Jack Falstaff do in the days of villiany?” In other words, if Adam couldn’t have a spiritual life in the Garden of Eden, what chance do you and I have in a world of iPhones, shopping malls, Obamacare, Harley Davidsons, the NFL, Chippendales, Las Vegas, and whatever else you call “villany” these days? Rather than suggest that we “unplug,” or “get away from it all,” I might suggest just the opposite.
If you want your life to “slow down,” have meaning, or connect up with God jump right into it. Plug into the very energy you want to be a part of as you walk with God. It might not be quiet, but if we’re paying attention we just might hear what God’s doing. I always find it interesting that people think of Jesus of Nazareth as some mystic who prayed alone on mountains. He may have a few times, but the people who told his stories, the people who found in him the energy of God, you know what stories they told about him? That’s right, not the ones on mountain, but the ones in the bars, the ones of the streets, the ones at the dinner tables, the ones where the people were. The energy of this Jesus guy wasn’t seen when he was alone, but rather, when he was surrounded by the noise and throng of God’s people. What’s your preferred spiritual place?
May your tables be full, and your conversations be true.
Scott Frederickson, Ph.D., is a Lutheran theologian and educator. He writes regularly at THOUGHTS FROM THE PRAIRIE TABLE