A Parable on Prayer
I have a friend. I’ll call him Tom.
Tom and I often get together for coffee. I like Tom, and I think he likes me. It’s just that… well, when we meet together I feel like I must converse with him in a few ‘quirky’ ways. Sometimes this make me feel like I don’t even want to keep some of our coffee dates!
For example, when I talk with Tom I feel I must use special “Tom” words. I’ve heard other people talk to Tom using these words so I guess I just feel Tom expects it. I’m not even sure what some of these words mean!
I’ve seen other people talk to Tom while in a specific yoga-like position. In fact, most times they talk with Tom they get into this position. The position feels odd to me but I guess Tom must like it. Myself, I find it kind of uncomfortable. But maybe Tom listens better when I do it.
I’ve often wondered if I shouldn’t get someone else to talk directly to Tom for me. I could get comfortable and use regular words to tell this person what I want to say to Tom, and they could talk to Tom for me… doing it all the “right” ways — like an interpreter.
Then I think that Tom likes me to raise topics with Him is a certain order, or at least be sure I include these four essential areas every conversation: 1. I must tell Tom some things I appreciate about Him. 2. I must apologize to Tom for anything I might have done that offended him and ask him to forgive me. Tom is always quick to forgive, so I don’t mind doing this… but I’m afraid one day Tom might not want to forgive me, or that I might forget something and Tom would be angry! 3. I must thank Tom for any special things he’s done for me and for being my friend. 4. If I do all these right then it’s OK for me to ask Tom for his help if I’m struggling with something.
I also feel I must use certain phrases throughout our conversation… phrases I think Tom likes to hear because I hear other people using them whenever they talk with Tom. Things like “as I know you’d agree,” or, “like you’ve written me before,” or making sure to address him with his full family name, “Thomas James Smith.” And when it’s time for us to part I make certain I always say, “I agree with all you have said,” just so there’s no doubt.
There are other “rules” like these that I think I must follow… other “quirky” things I am always trying to remember and get right. Sometimes all this makes me think I really don’t know how to talk to Tom at all. I find it all very stressful!
Last time we got together I decided to lay this all out before Tom. He listened patiently as I rattled off my “quirky rules” list. When I was all done Tom laughed.. and said, “You know I’ve been wondering why you’ve talked to me like that. I’ve been longing for the day you would just be yourself with me and chat with me like you do with any good friend. After all, that’s what we are… friends, right?
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