It has been a long time since I wrote You a letter.
In fact, now that I think about it, I’ve never written You a letter. Not sure why, except that my mom raised me a Methodist like herself and as far as I can recall, the subject of writing You letters never came up, not in either Sunday School or the sermon we had to sit through later before we could go home and watch television. So maybe it’s just a Methodist thing and maybe You get letters galore from Catholics and Unitarians. I’ll have to ask some of my friends who are Catholic or Unitarian if they send You letters.
That is, if any of them are still talking to me after they read this letter.
Anyway, I’ve decided to go the letter route because I was never very comfortable with that praying stuff. Not since the old “Now I lay me down to sleep and pray the Lord my soul to keep” days—which ended, roughly, about when I reached puberty. Part of it was that after all those early years of asking You not to kill me in my sleep, I couldn’t think of anything to pray for that didn’t involve me getting something like a Honda 50 or Beatle boots. And even by junior high or so, I knew enough about the general idea of praying to know that doing it to get stuff for yourself was sort of icky and selfish.
No, I was taught that we were supposed to pray for things like food for hungry children and world peace and that Mrs. Bellows the lady in the choir with the blue hair didn’t die of her cancer. But I didn’t do a lot of praying for those nice, unselfish things because I figured everyone else in the church was praying for them, so why would You need to hear the same things from me? Right?
And then, a few years later, I quit believing in You altogether, and trust me, Lord, nothing seems as pointless as praying to a God you don’t believe in.
Oh sure, things came up as the years went by. Bad things. Anytime You got a prayer out of me in the last … oh, say … 40 years or so, it was over something bad. Something I didn’t think at the time that I could handle without finding some strength from somewhere because I felt like mine was all gone.
But frankly, I wasn’t honestly expecting any real results. Yes, I did not want Mom or Dad to die. But I knew You weren’t going to stop that from happening even if I believed in You. I just needed to talk, more than anything.
Plus, I knew at the time it was selfish to ask You to leave them alive. Not as selfish as asking for a Honda 50 or Beatle boots, but definitely, it was as much for my sake I didn’t want them to die as for theirs.
And that’s pretty much how things have stood for the last 45 or 50 years. I don’t believe in You, but when circumstance gets painful and desperate enough, I’ll occasionally get in a corner by myself and think in my head something to the effect … Good Lord, would You DO something about this!?
So there You have my history of prayer, pretty much for all my life. Simply put, I don’t do it. At least, not until I have no recourse other than praying. And afterwards, I feel a tad silly that I’ve just turned to someone who I know isn’t there, as well as a tad guilty for having asked for something as a result of my own need.
No, I have never prayed for something as stupid and trivial as having You take a side in a football game, or that I win the Powerball or anything like that. But still, I have to admit, every time I’ve resorted to prayer, it was ultimately about something personal, even if it was someone else I was praying for.
But then, glory halleluiah, comes that National Prayer Breakfast last week. After all those years of ambiguous feelings over the act of praying, I find out I’ve had the wrong attitude all along. Assuming You really are the God Donald Trump seems to believe in, then I now know it’s perfectly okay to spend a prayer bragging about myself, asking for stuff that has nothing to do with anyone else’s well-being but my own, and claiming I’m Your gift to the world, being the only one who can fix all the problems.
So from now on, it’s screw that “Humble Yourself before the Lord” crud. As Trump has shown us, not only in his prayer breakfast speech but in his behavior, whatever it was that Son of Yours was babbling about 2000 years ago ain’t got nothing whatsoever to do with how things work these days. As Trump pointed out to somebody or other he’s trying to start a war with, being “nice” is what made Obama such a loser. And we won’t have that problem with him.
Evidently, Jesus, too, has finally woken up and smelled the coffee because I have seen with my own eyes a picture of Trump signing executive orders with his tiny little writing hand being guided by our Savior, Himself. So whatever Trump’s been doing in regards to his personal relationship with You and Your little family, it must be working.
And Lord, my eyes were definitely opened when I heard Trump tell all those assembled preachers and pastors and televangelist donation grubbers that they should pray for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Apprentice ratings. It came back to me like in a revelation, all the stuff I could have been praying for going back years and years, but didn’t because I thought it would be vulgar and crude and icky and just wrong.
Like, that time I got pulled over for going 45 in a 25-limit zone, and knew I was in double trouble because I’d let my insurance lapse? Why, I could have just prayed that the cop would get a call to respond to a murder-suicide/hostage situation going on somewhere downtown, and I would have gotten out of that ticket for sure.
Or when I was in Jackpot a few years ago playing blackjack, and the old guy ahead of me in the deal was getting all those great card while I was getting bullshit? … I could have prayed how that would have been a good time for him to have a heart attack. I mean, nothing major. Just enough to get him off the table for the night.
And back when I was so worried about my number coming up early in the draft lottery, I could have prayed for all the other guys to get picked first so they’d have to go to Vietnam instead of me. Brother, would that have saved a lot of sweat.
So from now on, now that I understand the true nature of “petitioning the Lord with prayer,” You’ll be hearing a lot more from me. Maybe not through prayer, as such—You don’t want to see me try to get up after I’ve spent more than a few seconds on my knees—but certainly through letters. Or as You like to call them “epistles.” (I assume postage is free when it’s going to You, hah hah.)
Or, You know what would really be righteous is if You gave me Your email address. That would be so convenient. Like ordering crap on-line, only You are so much bigger than Amazon.
And, if it turns out I was right all along … that there is no God … all I’m out is a few more seconds now and then piddling around in my gmail account.