This is how we do it.
It’s Friday night, and I feel alright. The party’s here on the West Side.
Haha, I’m just kidding. That’s a song. I have no idea what that song is about. Dancing and partying, maybe? It’s from the 90s and it’s from this guy named Montell Jordan. I don’t know what happened to him after the song got popular. Perhaps he is waiting tables. There is nothing wrong with waiting tables. I love waiters and waitresses.
So today’s blog post is about praying. Because I keep making reference to “praying” and “prayer” and I don’t know if I’ve been really clear on what that looks like. It does not look like berating yourself. It does not look like a repetition of empty words that mean nothing to you while you stand in a group of people who seem terribly bored.
I mean, honey, it can be what you want it to be, I’m not going to tell you how to talk to God. Who am I? I’m just some random woman who is awesome inside. But you’re here, reading this, so I’ll sprinkle some fairy dust on the situation.
It strikes me that for over 2000 years, Christian leadership has missed the whole entire point of what Jesus was all about and what he taught. I mean, it’s kind of a disgusting display. Disgusting may be a harsh word, and I don’t have time to look it up and see its root word and pick at all its little parts because I woke up late today, and you can do that on your own time. And I’m not trying to suggest I’m smarter than anyone else for figuring this out; many, many people know this. I guess it’s just that I’m trying to do something about it and I feel like doing something is part of my main purpose in the world.
I’ll get to the prayer part, really. I will. Hold your panties.
The point of SexyJesus’s teachings was not to say, Establish a creed and religion and dogma around me, and then when you die, you’ll have access to the pearly gates of heaven and we’re going to party all the time and leave people in the dust. Jesus was not Montell Jordan. He was not like, Oh, and if someone is a different religion or has different genitals or different skin or if they’re not rich, they’re kind of not worthy of your time and they’re going to be on the outside of this movement. This is a tribe man, a supreme tribe of the righteous and anyone who is not in our tribe is second-class.
Like, ew. A guy who says that stuff is just oily. Get that guy some soap and shampoo and a brush for his oily hair.
Jesus spoke about the kingdom of heaven, and the big clincher to the whole shebang is that the kingdom of heaven is within you. This is abundantly clear in the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, which was buried, and let’s keep in mind that Mary Magdalene was the most devoted and faithful disciple, hmm?
Within you. So yes, there is a presence around you, too, but if you actually listen to SexyJesus’s words and put them into practice, rather than just paying them lip service, which is what most people do, then you start to realize, Damn, that shit is true. You become lit up inside. You feel healed from the greatest fear. The more time and energy and attention you give to God—and remember, God is not an asshole, God is amazingly kind and wonderful and loving and nurturing—the more you feel it come back to you, a thousandfold. The difference is that it’s a gentle kind of existence, and we’re not used to gentleness. We’re used to men shouting in combovers. We’re used to lots and lots of noise. But the way God helps you out is usually subtle, and light, and you might miss it if you fail to open your eyes.
Oh my dear, so many people fail to open their eyes! Ahhh! So many people walk around with heads up their asses! And this is not even a yoga pose, and I don’t know how people even get their heads into such a tiny orifice!
Sure, you can say the Our Father. Man, if you have an exorcism to perform, that prayer works. I did that once, and the spirit leapt out the window, it was awesome. You can say the Hail Mary, because Mary is vibrant and amazing. So if you need something with repetition, and it has weight, and it’s the repetition of words in the dark of the night to help you get back to sleep, by all means.
But if you kind of have no relationship to God, and you’re thinking maybe it would be helpful to have one? If you keep getting into these scary situations of doubt and fear and confusion, and you need help, but you don’t pray because you think the God-stuff is bologna and bullshit? Well, clear yourself of that stupidness, because you are not the center of the world, and have some humility about your smallness in the grand scheme and the fact that you were made for something, not just to ache and cry and take drugs to help pharmaceutical companies get rich. Start creating a relationship with This Thing.
It’s hard, dude. I was there once. I sat in Quaker meeting for many months after my son was born (he’s now 12!), wondering about this word “God.” What was God, who is God, what is this stupid word? There was something, I just didn’t know what it was, or what image to attach to it. And shit, one day this intense, hot flame came over me in Quaker meeting and made my chest pound and I had to stand and say something, and that scared the shit out of me, because I was like, Well, that did not come from me. What the hell was that?
And so I was lucky, see.
You are lucky too. Or blessed, or blah blah blah.
I have a friend who was raised Catholic, and who was wounded by the Catholic church, and she is so amazing and brilliant, and she told me that she had all this wrestling and grappling within herself, and she had a spiritual life but she still kind of didn’t know what God was, or if Jesus was worth his salt, and one day she was walking and saw a statue of Jesus and stopped and looked at him and simply said, “Hello.”
And that, honey, is a great first step. Just say hello. (Elizabeth Gilbert did this and made millions, but that’s just an aside.)
So prayer is stripping away all the bullshit and engaging with this force, this presence, whom you can be completely honest with. That force and presence already knows who you are and knows you and is hanging out around you all the time. The difference is that finally, maybe, you express recognition that something is there, through your words.
So meditate often, because meditation is prayer. When I go to churches, I am meditating and not using words until afterward, but I love the space and intentionality of a church and it’s a quiet place in cities when you need a quiet place to close your eyes and breathe and not look funny and not get your wallet stolen.
But words matter. You can try talking to SexyJesus, but you don’t have to. Try Mother Mary. Try Mary Magdalene. Start with some other saint, if you want, but remember this, first and foremost: the goal of establishing this relationship is not to get something.
I mean, sure, you can ask for something. There’s no harm in doing that. But you may not be far enough advanced in your prayer life to ask and receive. Because you’ll receive something back and you won’t recognize it, because you may have a limited expectation of what God’s going to do for you, because you don’t really know God yet, and you will only know God when you begin to establish a relationship. The same way you get to know a new friend. I mean, do you walk right up to a new person and say, “I’d like 1000 dollars by Monday?” It’s possible that person is gonna be like, Sure, here. But unlikely. The person may say, “Well let me tell you a little about me and my financial situation.” The person may say, “Tell me a little bit about you and whether you are worthy of this gift.” The person may say, “Do you know what I’ve been through today? How about you ask me a little bit about me. How about we get coffee. I like that ring you’re wearing, where did you get it?”
And so on, and so on.
So, the beginning of prayer, and it is always a beginning when it comes to prayer, is to just say out loud, or write in a letter or notebook (if you like writing, because writing is as powerful as speech), “Hi. I’m confused. I don’t know what’s what. I have this life situation that is causing me pain and struggle, and I don’t know what to do, and I’m trying you out, because it can’t hurt.” Let’s stress this part, okay? Talking to God can’t hurt. It can only help. So if you’re avoiding it, or refusing to do it, get your head out of your ass. You’re going to get scoliosis or something.
And then, you know, God, who is like this person you’ve just met who you’re sitting across the table with, drinking coffee and eating eggs (oh, how I love eating eggs with people!), says, “Oh man. Tell me more. Let’s see how I can best help you. This might take a little time.”
(Montell is smart to get a designated driver.)