Several years ago, I was relaxing on one of Cape Cod’s beaches, daydreaming and vaguely aware of the soft rumble of waves at the water’s edge. My mind drifted lazily, that is until the ring of someone’s cellphone startled me. I heard a man’s abrupt answer, “Yes?” There was a pause, and then the man continued, “This is his mother speaking.”
Yes, the man actually referred to himself as his own mother. I opened one curious eye to look across the beach at the man. He stood at least fifty yards away, surprising given how easily I heard his conversation. Sound, I realized, must skip along flat sand like it does along the surface of water. About this time, I realized I could hear dozens of conversations coming at me from all across the beach. The cacophony altered the course of my daydreaming. Or by now, lack thereof.
“Yes,” I heard the man say again. “I already said, ‘This is his mother.’ He is not here right now.” Did he raise the pitch of his voice to sound like a woman? “What a crackpot,” I thought to myself. Whacky. Goofy. Too much smokin’ you-know-what behind the dunes at the ole’ beach cottage.
Hearing the cacophony of voices, though, got me thinking about – believe it or not – prayer. All those voices God must hear simultaneously directed heaven-bound, all those prayers head’n like wisps o’ smoke up to God. Reminded me of the great Zora Neale Hurston line, “I’ll bet when you get down on them rusty knees and get to worry God, He just goes in his privy house and slams the door.”
Summer prayers or Lenten prayers, and one must wonder, What does God do with all them prayers? Whacky? Goofy? Does he think of us, too much smokin’ you-know-what? Does God slam some privy door shut? Because I’m here to tell you, our prayers, they ain’t much, and our knees, well – they’re pretty rusty.
The Good News is, it doesn’t take much with God. When it comes to prayer. Whacky, goofy, rusty knees, or whatever, it is the intention that God hears, far more than God hears the words, the beauty of hope lodged in the tiniest corner of the soul. Thankfully, God looks beyond the characteristic of the selfishness of prayer. (Doesn’t most prayer tend to be a bit selfish or self-centered, anyway?) The very exercise of prayer is an invitation that God takes seriously, that brings God into the middle of what must be, for the person praying, a tenuous situation. God jumps into our world like a kid into a summer pond. God is that kind of God – fast to act, and slow to criticize.
The answer to prayer may not be what you expect or want. You no doubt know that hard lesson, by now. But, do you remember being a kid? You’d ask your parents for something – which you often would not receive as asked. But you relied on your folks, turned to them, treated them as – well, as parents. The same is true of God – asking alone builds relationship between you and God, and that relationship is most often far more important than the object of any one request. It is the love that counts, the intent, and God’s plain-old self jumping into your summer pond.