Underpinning asking and receiving, common with giving thanks, prayer is listening, understanding and submission. Prayer can assert itself in conversation not simply with God but also with those we engage by the giving of who we are.
Prayer, in less than a circuitous way, makes me wonder about my Southern upbringing. Uppermost in this fabric are discussions toward one means of cooking pork over another and the fixin’s and sauce to go with it. Childhood days on end were spent playing war amongst the pines and pickup football with the gang and wishing I had a mini-bike and feeling deprived I didn’t. Observations had me wondering about all the differences experienced between me and my cousins who lived in the upstate, but more the differences between whites and blacks in my hometown and the associated attitudes. Observations don’t always come with understanding.
Never doubting my parents’ love for me, I disliked it when Mother said to me, “I need to have a word of prayer with you.” Chastening followed. A past means good and bad.
Strange, growing up, wanting to leave both home and hometown, today I cherish that cocoon that allowed me freedom and chastened me. I was formed and pressurized by my surroundings much like Mom’s green beans on the stove seasoned with all that pork fat. Sometimes, when you got something and you don’t know what you got, what you got is better than what you want. The other side of the fence mentality can pervade thought. But those days were, are, a part of me. Attempts to brush it off failed. Wisdom comes after life happens.
Isn’t it true we carry our upbringing with us? Isn’t it true we cannot separate from it? No more than kindness from love, we cannot separate prayer from life.
Christians don’t, shouldn’t, live in the past. But our past informs us, gives us a point from which to depart and move toward not better things, but a better self. Carrying it, I retain its essence, its teaching, its ideal to which I once aspired. My past, the grandfather of my present, is a contemplation of encapsulated images, a lunchbox of yesterdays lurking beneath my prayers.
Though present when I pray, prayer is not the past, but more a merging, a becoming of who I will be, the person God desires of me assured by my coming to Him humbly conversing, listening, understanding and submitting. And failing, I beseech Him in prayer again.
To lift kindness from love, to elevate it outside of all else love means, to cull it from love’s embrace and make it into an ideal unto itself is contempt for God. Isn’t removing the past from prayer the same? Did God not also work in me yesterday. Will today not also pass?
Because yesterday informs me, the inheritance I receive from it allows me to give my portion to you, and you, who receives your own, have something to give to me. And isn’t prayer thus the giving of all we are and will be? Isn’t the “will be” God’s answer?