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The availability of prayer

Just a dumbass midnight thought, but I’ve been thinking, lately, of the horrifying availability of prayer.  Does no one else have this dread, from time to time, of the offhand remarks we make to God?  Our assurance that He knows us through and through, that He loves us intimately, emboldens us—or at least, emboldens me, occasionally, to assume that He also agrees with my prejudices and predispositions.  So that when this fatuous archbishop, or that overstimulated commentator, pronounces on some issue of the day, I can recline on the breast of the Boss, smirking at how much He and I know what malarkey this all is.  Of course, the Gospel is replete with all sorts of correctives, but every once in a while, that one from Luke 13:25, “I do not know where you are from” really smacks me, even in the wake of a New York Times editorial.

About the Author

Michael O. Garvey works in public relations at the University of Notre Dame.



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Michael, the better phrase might be "the horrifying tendency to be self righteous." Too many Christians, including saints, have misinterpreted God completely. Augustine missed the core point when he advocated force over persuasion. This is a prodigious error. To my mind he does not deserve to be quoted and praised just on this gargantuan blunder. As you say the danger of self deception is always there. Ask the sons of Zebedi. All the wars that have been condoned in the name of Jesus. Those were avowed Christians who killed all those Jews. There were many who helped the Jews. But most of the bishops were cowards. 

This is why Jesus gave the example that the guy in the back of the church who kept pounding his chest for mercy was justified over the boastful believer in the front row. A sure sign that we are straying is if we cannot say: "Lord be merciful to me a sinner" with a sincere heart. 

Er, yes.  I'll share one spontaneous prayer that now makes me cringe:  I'm a great fan of the Harry Potter books, and while eagerly awaiting the release of book 7, I was on a plane that experienced terrifying levels of turbulence.  My immediate reaction was to address the Lord thus:  "If you make me die before I have read book 7, I am going to be really, really mad".  This was wrong so many ways that I can't even count them.  (I did pray properly a minute or two later.)


For future reference re air turbulence:

Despite the the pilot's assurances, I've nonetheless been known to utter quick Hail Mary's when things get choppy up there.



My father taught us all to make the sign of the cross with the water as we first went in swimming, perhaps because he almost drowned when he was twelve years-old. I still do that, but have added that sign as the plane picks up speed down the run-way.  And nothing childish in any of it.

Bill Collier:  Thanks. :-)  I do know that intellectually, but emotionally, I just can't make myself believe it.

I've been so upset I've told God I hate him and want him to go away.  I cringe when I think of that but I still think it's best to be honest in prayer - it's not as if God doesn't know what's in our hearts anyway.


In airplanes, sometimes, if I notice some people making the sign of the cross or looking worried, I recline on the breast of the Boss (ha!) and ask Him to bring peace to them and help them to relax.

My main worry in a nasty turbulence is to not throw up, but I have never prayed for it.

But when I am walking in a city alone late at night and see a group of men on the sidewalk talking loudly, I quickly check on God - "You're with me, right? Stay right by me" before walking straight on. When I was a child I called him "my secret weapon", as in: "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. I will fear no evil, for you are with me".


God is always with us. Whether we escape danger or we get crucified. If we are to put it together we must say God is with us both ways. Those who meet violent ends; by chemical weapons, nuclear, etc. have God with them. You know like God is not with the winning team  and not the losers. Yet so many Christian leaders miss this. 

Jesus told us to address God as "Father" because He IS our father.  Job directly questioned the behavior of God relative to us, and God blessed him for telling the truth -- that at times He does indeed appear unloving and even very unjust. It was because Job was truthful about it that He made Job prosperous again, and He punished Job's friends who were afraid to tell God the truth.  

But sometime it's hard to be respectful when telling it like it seems.

The mere thought of Christ is relaxing. When someone takes my blood pressure, I think about Christ or about prime numbers, and it brings my numbers down.

Think of the disciples in the boat: "Lord, don't you care that we are drowning?"  Or the Psalmist begging God to "Wake up!" Or "How long, O Lord?" Or "Why?"--a question that even Jesus asked.

I don't think the Creator expects/wants us to "pray properly".  

Parents don't turn their backs on a furious little two-year-old and expect her to come back with a go-between in vestments to mollify them with someone else's words.

"I hate, and have rejected your festivities: and I will not receive the odour of your assemblies."

"Do not multiply words as the gentiles do."


When my 18-month-old was being tested for leukemia, I remember going to the bathroom, vomiting, and sending up some panicky amorphous prayer like, "You can't possibly let this happen, what will I do?" The answer, quick as love came back, "You'll be the best damn mother you can be. Now quit puking and get out there and deal." 

The tests were negative, but it had nothing to do with my prayer; God was with the kid however it was going to turn out. I learned a lesson about the limits of human control. Since then, I have never prayed for something not to happen, but I have often prayed the "Let me be the best damn mother I can" prayer.


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