I listened to a couple of guys as they talked about bike riding. I'd wandered into the middle of the conversation -- they were evidently discussing how difficult it is to work enough bike-riding into busy schedules. The first guy -- a lean, intense sort -- said, "It's easy, you just get up around daylight, have devotions (did I mention that this was at a church conference?), and then just hop on the bike and go. Keep it in your bedroom if you have to."
The second guy, considerably less lean and intense, looked at him in amazement and said "The only devotions I'm going to be having at 5:00 a.m. is to say, "Oh God, whose idea was this!?"
I laughed out loud and decided I didn't need to worry about a column for the coming week. But then I had kind of a brain cramp and suddenly the column idea slid in a whole different direction. Except it didn't make sense; I wasn't sure how I would make the transition from a funny story to something else.
Then I thought, "Hey, I've written 740 columns. They don't all have to make sense."
I know what you're thinking -- shut up.
It would have been a really funny column. The next line was going to be, "I must be more religious than I thought, because apparently I'm praying all the time." But then I started to think about the people I know who don't really pray all that much, and don't need to, because they live their lives as prayers -- kind of like performance art.
Let's face it, a life well lived is a prayer.
You probably know how to pray. Not the "goodbreadgoodmeatgoodGodletseat" sort of prayer -- instead, it's the one you actually mean. All you need to do to live it is stretch it out to 16 or 18 hours a day.
First of all, you clear your mind so you're sure of saying exactly what you mean. The next thing you do is say thanks. Hey, it's just good manners -- someone gives you something, you thank them for it. And for the average person, every day is such an avalanche of blessings, the backlog of gratitude is immense. Doesn't need to be complicated -- when you walk out the door on a beautiful morning or when a baby smiles at you, just take a moment to say "Hey, thanks, big guy." There's no need to wait until Sunday to acknowledge that life is good, as is the world we live in.
After that you can get to the requests. No need to go nuts with this -- the prayer I learned doesn't go any further than daily bread. No mention of Play Stations or new four wheel drive pickups. If you want stuff, get a job.
Now it's time to ask for forgiveness. Oh, don't give me that -- we all have something in our lives we're not proud of, but don't mess around with a "sorry," or "my bad." Apologies mean a lot less than actions and our first action should be to try some forgiveness on those who have wronged us. There's a quote from Emerson that I posted over my desk that says, "Don't say things. What you are stands over you the while and thunders so that I cannot hear what you say to the contrary."
And I guess that's what I'm getting at. I realize that in just 600 words I've strayed a long way from a guy in a bar telling a joke about early-morning devotions, but in this world there is plenty of once-a-week-piety, as well as no end of talk and no action. It's easy to sound like youâ€™re praying. To live your life as a prayer is a lot more bother.