Sunday, August 07, 2011

The Proper Attitude

Sitting near the back of the church affords me the opportunity to observe my fellow worshipers.  I don't do it all the time, but occasionally, something will jump out at me about these people who are becoming my second family and I think about it.

Today, I noticed how they prayed.  There are lots of ways to do it.  Some stand, head bowed.  Some kneel, backs straight, hands clasped tightly together.  Every now and then I see the hands straight up and together the way art most often portrays praying hands.  Some half-kneel - those people whose knees hurt when full weight is on them, so they take some of the pressure off by resting their backsides on the edge of the pew.  Still kneeling, but not the more formal straight back pose.  One couple is interesting...  he stands to pray while in the pew and she kneels, but when they go up to the altar for communion, he kneels and she stands.  One day I might get up the nerve to ask them about that.

Personally, I favor the half-kneel (achy knees, don't 'cha know), with hands loosely clasped.  Sometimes head bowed, sometimes looking up, sometimes straight ahead.  This is the attitude I adopt for church.

But in my everyday life, prayer happens sitting down, standing at the sink, lying in bed in the middle of the night, driving to work or waiting for lunch.  Sometimes in the shower or mowing the lawn.  Lots of times it happens while cleaning the pool or cooking dinner. 

It's not really something a person is taught.  It comes in time. 

When I was a young teen, I loved going to garage sales.  And book stores.  Browsing the rickety card tables loaded down with dog-eared books or the pristine pages sitting on organized shelves... it didn't matter to me.  I just loved books.  I don't remember exactly where I got Papa's Daughter back then.  I suspect a bookstore as I remember crisp pages at some point, but as time went by, the pages were bent, the spine broken and bits of the cover fell off.  It was a well-loved, oft-read book.  I can't tell you exactly what it was about... a teenaged girl named Button and her discovery of boys and straining against the strictures of her father, the preacher, I think.  But the thing that jumped out at me even then was her mother's relationship with God.  She talked to him out loud while setting the table, making the beds, hanging the laundry - like a friend who'd come to visit and she was filling him in on all the news, her worries, her happiness, as she went about the business of her day.  One day, I thought all those years ago, I want to have that kind of relationship with God. 

In the book, Mama was considered a bit of a rebel.  She didn't assume the proper attitude for prayer, which was a bit scandalous as she was the preacher's wife.  But I think she followed the commandment to pray without ceasing to the letter.  God was not a Sunday-and-religious-holiday kind of God to her, but a constant companion in her everyday life.

And today, I realized that I had evolved in my own relationship to be very much like the one in the book.  I talk to him all the time.  Mostly in silence, but sometimes aloud.  And I find that if I listen, He answers as well.  Sometimes it's not clear until later or the response I expected, but He always answers.

I believe that I have learned the proper attitude.


Jill said...

I love this post. As a teen, I took the prayer thing pretty seriously, silently, but eyes up to heaven whenever something went wrong, or just when it went right. I know I wish I had that back. Maybe I can start some purposeful prayer and see how it does. Every once in a while when someone sings, in our new church? People put their hands up in the air, eyes closed. That would NEVER have happened in our old church. Same denomination, different attitude. Change is good.

I tend to pray at night or in the morning, mostly that I can get out of bed (kidding), and when M&K are gone somewhere, I find myself praying for them. We typically pray silently before dinner, and have started getting Keeley to pray outloud. Part of the time I do outloud, but she's sooooo sweet to hear pray-- and the prayers I pray sometimes at dinner she might not appreciate (like, God, please give me patience with my child who is being a brat today.. stuff like that)... and of course in church. Now the trick is getting her NOT to say her dinner prayer outloud in church. That's always fun!

Anonymous said...

Sandy said...

I agree with your dad. I have recently started crocheting prayer shawls. At first it was very difficult to remember to pray with every stitch but once I figured out that the pattern was repetitions of three, it got much easier. Loved this post, Sarah.

min said...

I guess sometimes praying depends on your faith. Mine never kneels, but simply bows heads. It's always nice going as a guest to someone's church and learning different ways to do things.

Sayre said...

I think that one of the things I like about my church is that everyone has their own style. And no one ever says "you're doing it wrong!" How can any form of prayer be wrong?

Knock knock - it's cancer! said...

I agree. Any prayer is good. There is no 'proper' way.

I like how you're evolving... I suspect you do too :)