The Alphabet Prayer

LEnt 1

Guest Devotioneer Leigh Trayer

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth.”  (Psalm 46:10)

A poor man found himself in a forest as night fell, and he had no prayer book to say his evening prayers. So he said, “God who knows all things, I have no prayer book and I do not know any prayers by heart.  But you know all the prayers.  You are God.  So this is what I am going to do.  I am going to say the alphabet, and I will let you put the words together.

From:  Neil Gaiman, “The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury (in Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances)

I read a great deal.  I spend the time most people would spend watching TV reading. (Unless it’s baseball season.)  I don’t typically read books or short stories that are particularly “religious”, so when a paragraph, sentence, or some turn of phrase transforms into a devotional before my eyes, it catches my attention.  Sometimes it is as if the author (or maybe The Author) has put a stop sign at the end of that sentence so that I will go no further until I think about it a little more.

This particular paragraph struck me visually first: imagine that old man, on his knees on some soft moss in the heart of an old forest, settling down for the night, away from the comfort of his home and warm bed.  He remembers to pray, but he can’t remember his prayers. He is lost in more ways than one.

Then came the real stop sign: This old man’s faith is great enough that he knows God is listening, even if he doesn’t know what to say. His trust in God is great enough that he knows God will know his intentions even if he recites letters he learned by rote as a child.

Sometimes when I settle into my evening prayers, I find myself at a loss as to what to say.  Sometimes the day has been such a doozie that I’m too befuddled to even attempt to talk it over with God.  My fall back is to recite the Lord’s Prayer, learned by rote as a child, much like the alphabet.  Sometimes I throw in a Hail Mary for old time’s sake.  (I’m a recovering Catholic.)  I feel guilty when I do this, as if it’s a chore I’m performing before allowing myself to surrender to sleep.  Like, “I really need this day to be over and here is something from the back of my head God, thanks.”  Like, “this is all the energy I have to give to my Creator tonight, sorry.”  Always talking, never listening.

The stop sign at the end of this passage reminded me that maybe I need to trust a little more in God’s side of the conversation.  Perhaps I need to trust a little more that He knows how to put the words together, especially when I don’t.

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Rev. Craig Ross

Senior Pastor

The vibrancy of life here at St. Peter’s makes my service on our staff a joy and privilege. Visitation, teaching and preaching are the ministries that feed my pastoral identity, as together our staff and lay members share in our missional calling … Building a community of faith by God’s grace.

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