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08 January 2019


Prayer isn’t a complicated idea. It’s just we overcomplicate it.

Prayer is talking with God. No more; no less; that’s all.

Yeah, you’d be surprised how many people, including us Christians, think I’m oversimplifying and it’s way more complicated than that. Prayer, they claim, is a profound mystical and spiritual undertaking which must only be done thoughtfully, seriously, soberly, and ritually. Only then will it work.

Their claim is all crap. It’s awfully popular crap, and some people are so used to the idea you’re never gonna change their minds about it. So long that they’re legitimately talking with God, I figure it won’t hurt ’em to believe it. But their ideas might get in your way of talking with him, and let’s not have that.

Anyway here’s the ritual they like to go with. If you’re doing it too, you can cut it out.

1. “THE RIGHT SPIRIT.” By which they don’t mean a literal spirit, but a mindset. A mood. It’s what I call the “prayer mood.” It’s an attitude of “Have mercy on me, oh Lord; I suffer.” But mix a few more sanctimonious things in there:

  • GRATITUDE: God’s about to grant our wishes!
  • EXPECTATION: We’re s’posed to have faith God’ll actually answer our requests.
  • AWE: God is awesome.
  • REMORSE: We’re dirty sinners.
  • CONFIDENCE: Yes, at the same time as remorse; we’re still daughters and sons of God, and oughta come boldly before his throne. He 4.16

There’s all sorts of contradictory information about how to feel when we approach God, and good luck regurgitating all of it at once. It’ll get messy. So try to psyche yourself into it.

2. POSTURE. Christians tend to have three approved yoga poses positions to get your body into when you pray.

  • HEAD BOWED, EYES CLOSED. The most common—especially in church services, mostly so you can’t see who’s raising their hands for prayer.
  • FACEDOWN ON THE GROUND. Or “lying prostrate.” Very appropriate for praying in private. Not so much before lunch in the middle of Taco Bell. (Dare you to try it though.)
  • HANDS OUTSTRETCHED, FACING THE SKY. Sorta like we’re welcoming God. But for some reason certain Christians like to do it with their eyes still closed—even with our heads still bowed! Which is probably a good idea if the sun’s really bright, but makes us a little less welcoming.

3. INCANTATIONS. No seriously. An incantation is a series of words one has to say as part of a religious ritual. So when Christians teach us we gotta say certain words, they’re teaching us incantations. (And here you thought incantations were just for witches.) There’s “Dear LORD” or “Precious Heavenly Father” or “Father God” or whatever initial words we use to “dial” God. And there’s nearly always “Amen” we use to “hang up.” Plus don’t forget to pray for all this stuff “in Jesus name,” which means whatever we think “in Jesus name” means. (Usually it means “I said ‘in Jesus name,’ so now I get what I asked for. Right?”)

Okay, are we done? No?—apparently there are beads and prayer cloths and prayer mats and prayer closets and other tchotchkes? Well, I’m done, ’cause I wanna get back to what prayer really is: Talking with God.