“Hey, Pastor Dave!”
“Hey Li! What can I do for you?”
“This is going to sound weird. At least, it does to me, but… Can you show me how to pray?”
Pastor Dave looked a little surprised. He ushered Li into his cabin. Li followed him in and asked, “So, should I get down on my knees or something?”
Pastor Dave chuckled and replied, “If you want to, but it’s not necessary.”
“What should I say? How do I address…it?”
It was obvious this was the first time Li had ever prayed. Dave found his sense of urgency intriguing.
“Why do you want to pray now, Li?”
“The Captain won’t let me go on the mission to find Dr. Yancey. He said he wants me to pray instead. Tell me how, please, Pastor Dave!” Both his zeal and his volume had increased with each word he spoke.
“Okay, Li, calm down! Wow, I’ve never had someone yell at me to teach them how to pray!” He laughed, then smiled humbly at Li.
“Uh, I guess it might be best to start with the standard. Repeat after me.” Pastor Dave cleared his throat.
“Our Father, who art in heaven…hallowed be Thy name…thy kingdom come…thy will be done…on earth as it is in heaven…give us this day our daily bread…and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors…lead us not into temptation…but deliver us from evil…for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever…Amen.”
The Red String, Chapter Twelve, The Prayer
I’ve been reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s short book on prayer, Psalms, The Prayer Book of the Bible. He claims that Jesus Christ, the Word of God, teaches us how to pray. Even in the Psalms, Jesus speaks because he IS the Word. John 1:1 says “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Many of the psalms were prayers of desperation. “How long, O Lord,” etc… David and the other writers of Psalms capture every emotion and record it. Pain, injustice, guilt, confession, and thankfulness are constant themes encompassing its pages. Bonhoeffer believed that the Lord’s Prayer, as Jesus taught the disciples and Pastor Dave taught Li, was evident in every Psalm.
In Kevin Roose’s book, The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University, he admits that while he didn’t convert to Christianity during his time doing undercover research at the very strict Christian university, he did develop a prayer life. I’m not quite sure how that works out, but I suspect God can see more of an unbeliever’s heart than we can, so I’ll leave that to God and not speculate. My point is that prayer, conversation with our Creator, is natural, innate. Thus, prayers of desperation happen with non-believers and believers.
In this excerpt of The Red String, Li is desperate. He feels helpless. We’ve all been there. Our loved one is sick and far away and there’s nothing we can physically do. Only pray. Prayer, mere words. But words, the Word, is powerful. Jesus, the Word of God, speaks. Trust to the Word.
“Do not try to make the Bible relevant. Its relevance is axiomatic. Do not defend God’s word, but testify to it. Trust to the Word. It is a ship loaded to the very limits of its capacity.”