WHERE’S THE HAT

Once upon a time there was an atheist grandmother, claiming Jewish cultural (if not religious) roots, who took her beloved five-year-old grandson to the beach. Decked out in his sun suit and hat, and equipped with his pail and shovel, the little boy played happily near the water, building castles and moats. When the grandmother dozed, the grandson was suddenly caught in an undertow and was soon nowhere in sight. The frantic grandmother called for help, but there was no one else on the beach.

Figuring she had nothing to lose, she fell to the ground, raised her arms to heaven and prayed, “God, if you exist, if you are there, please save my grandson. I promise I’ll make it up to you. I’ll join the Hadassah*; I’ll volunteer at the hospital; I’ll join the men’s club, the women’s club, whatever makes you happy.”

And suddenly a huge wave tossed the grandson on the beach at her feet. The grandmother bent over to hear his heart beating, she noticed color in his cheeks, his eyes opening, but she appeared upset. Bringing herself to full height, and with hands on her hips, she wagged her finger at the sky: “He had a hat, you know! Where’s the hat?”

Source: “Meditations on a Joyful Year
Speed Vogel Talks with Moshe Walks”
in Parabola, XII (4) 1987, p. 63.

CONSIDER THIS

This is supposed to be a humorous story. Humor is possible in this situation only  because the grandmother speaks to and not for God.  God is someone who can be berated and cajoled because God is very much part of the family. God is personal and even a friend and just like a friend you can engage in a conversation with God on an intimate basis and be yourself, a conversation that allows for nitpicking even!

  • How does your conversation with God sound like?
  • It sometimes happen that no matter how big the gift, we sometimes act or respond as though it’s not big enough. How do you normally respond to what comes your way?

[*] Hadassah means compassion, hence the women’s charity in Israel, Hadassah.

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THE UPS AND DOWNS OF HORSE RIDING

A circuit-riding pastor was galloping down a road to get to church on time. Suddenly his horse stumbled and pitched him to the ground. In the dirt with a broken leg, the pastor called out, “All you saints in heaven, help me get up on my horse!”

Then with superhuman effort, he leaped onto the horse’s back and fell off the other side. Once again, he called to heaven, “All right, just half of you this time.”

Source | David M. Varner, Sunday Funnies to Tickle the Soul
(Xulon Press, 2010) page 44

 

CONSIDER THIS

Would you consider the pastor a faithful person, well-seasoned in the art of prayer? After all, here’s a guy who in the middle of great adversity doesn’t fade, but with confidence calls out. And keeps calling out … with a sense of humour!

Imagine you found yourself in the same situation, what would you have done?

WHERE’S YOUR UMBRELLA?

The rains failed again that year. It was the third year in succession when there was no rain. The crops had disappeared and the land was a brown swath of dusty rubble. Trees had lost their leaves years ago and stood out like silhouettes of cactus on the dusty horizon. There was a stream that skirted the village in years bygone. Now the riverbed was dry. Where once flowed clean, fresh water from the nearby mountains, there was now a bed of clay, cracked in a checkerboard pattern with gaps as wide as a foot.  No one knew what had happened to the birds except for the vultures that circled the town, looking for a carcass or two of an animal that was left dying.

There was famine in the land. People walked around like sticks, sans flesh, surviving on whatever ration was brought to them by various international charities.

Desperate for help, the people of the village held a meeting under a big banyan tree that was as old as the village. “Let us pray”, said an elderly woman. “Only God can help us now.”

There lived people of many faiths in the village and there ensued a big debate as to where to hold the prayer – in a church, a mosque, a synagogue  or a temple. There was no consensus. Exhausted, they decided to hold their prayer in the open, late that night, under the open sky, away from the town. It was a full moon night and the moon shone with its alluring brightness against a background of shimmering stars.

Amongst the people gathering for prayer a little girl holding hands with her young brother came running from a nearby village, holding high an open umbrella over their heads. Huffing for breath, they stood there, looking up, umbrella still unfurled. The gathered crowd could not but help turn around and wonder what was going on.  Some were curious; others were annoyed and some others were even furious as they kept being poked by the spokes of the umbrella.

Finally a curious bystander asked, “Why did you bring the umbrella?  Can’t you see there is no rain and we have come here to pray for rain?  Only a foolish person would stand on a clear night like this with an open umbrella.”

“Yes  indeed”, chimed in the two young siblings. “We came to pray too. We are certain that our prayer will be answered and it will rain. That is why we brought this big, colourful umbrella.”

Adapted from The Child who Brought an Open Umbrella for Prayer
by  Professor Nazeer Ahmed

______________________________
A variant of the same story

There was once a small village, which was suffering from a severe drought. The crops were dying, and the villagers and their animals had very little water to drink.

One day, to try to find a solution to the drought, the village priest called the villagers to gather at the village square to pray together for rain. He told them to bring along a token of their faith, so the prayer would be done in sincere faith.

And so, the villagers gathered at the square bringing with them tokens of their faith. Some brought the Holy Bible while others carried small crosses as tokens of faith. They all prayed aloud with great faith and hope.

Sure enough, within a few moments it began to rain. The whole crowd was overjoyed and danced happily. The priest noticed that among the joyous crowd was a nine-year-old boy, clutching an umbrella as a token of faith. The priest admired this little boy, who had brought an umbrella in total faith that the God would surely hear his prayers and send rain.

CONSIDER THIS

One short passage in the Gospel of Matthew reads, “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.  For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” | Matthew 7:7-8

Sometimes we ask and we do not receive, we search and do not find, we knock and the door remains tightly shut. So what do you make of this Gospel verse?

What are you praying for and what do you bring with you to prayer? What is your umbrella?

NOTICING YOUR WAY TO FREEDOM

A man in prison is sent a prayer rug by his friend. What he had wanted, of course, was a file or a crowbar or a key! But he began using the rug, doing five-times prayer before dawn, at noon, mid-afternoon, after sunset, and before sleep. Bowing, sitting up, bowing again, he notices an odd pattern in the weave of the rug, just at the qibla, the point, where his head touches. He studies and meditates on that pattern, gradually discovering that it is a diagram of the lock that confines him in his cell and how it works. He’s able to escape. Anything you do every day can open into the deepest spiritual place, which is freedom.
Source | Coleman BarksThe Essential Rumi
(Harper SanFrancisco, 2004) page 253
CONSIDER THIS
Anything you do every day can open into the deepest spiritual place, which is freedom.

ARE YOU A MONUMENTAL BORE?

A pious old man prayed five times a day while his business partner never set foot in church. And now, on his eightieth birthday he prayed thus:

“Oh Lord our God! Since I was a youth not a day have I allowed to pass without coming to church in the morning and saying my prayers at the five specified times. Not a single move, not one decision, important or trifling did I make without first invoking your Name. And now, in my old age, I have doubled my exercises of piety and pray to you ceaselessly, night and day. Yet here I am, poor as a church mouse. But look at my business partner. He drinks and gambles and, even at his advanced age, consorts with women of ques­tionable character yet he’s rolling in wealth. I wonder if a single prayer has ever crossed his lips. Now, Lord, I do not ask that he be punished, for that would be un­christian. But please tell me: Why, why, why… have you let him prosper and why do you treat me thus?”

“Because,” said God in reply, “you are such a monumental bore!”

Source | Anthony de Mello, Prayer of the Frog I published in the USA as Taking Flight page 27

 

PONDER AND CONSIDER

The Rule in a monastery was not, “Do not speak,” but, “Do not speak unless you can improve on the silence.”

Might not the same be said of prayer?

AUTHENTIC PRAYER

Late one evening a poor farmer on his way back from the market found himself without his prayer book. The wheel of his cart had come off right in the middle of the woods and it distressed him that this day should pass without him having said his prayers. So this is the prayer he made: “I have done something very foolish, Lord. I came away from home this morning without my prayer book and my memory is such that I cannot recite a single prayer without it. So this is what I am going to do: I shall recite the alphabet five times very slowly and you, to whom all prayers are known, can put the letters together to form the prayers I can’t remember.”

And the Lord said to his angels, “Of all the prayers I have heard today, this one was undoubtedly the best because it came from a heart that was simple and sincere.”

Source | Paulo Coelho

______________________________

A VARIATION OF THE SAME STORY

A Jewish farmer, because he was carelessness, had to spend a Sabbath in his field. Preoccupied with his work, he let the sun go down without going home. Being a pious believer, he was not allowed to travel until sunset the next day. So he spend the day in the field, by himself, missing the Seder meal with his family and services at the synagogue. When he finally did return home the next evening, he was met by an irate wife and an equally upset rabbi. The rabbi chided him for his carelessness and asked him: “What did you do in the field by yourself all day? Did you at least pray?”

“Rabbi,” the farmer answered, “I’m not a very smart man and I don’t know many prayers. All the prayers I knew, I said in five minutes. What I did the rest of the day was simply recite the alphabet. I left it up to God to make some words out of all those letters.”

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • How would your life change if instead of praying by the book you consciously choose to leave the book behind and instead recite the alphabet slowly like it were a sacred mantra?
  • How would your prayer change if instead instead of praying the words of other – these are the printed prayers – you humbly and simply weave together a few of your words emerging from the heart?

GOD’S HELP

A man was caught in a flood. First he was called and told to evacuate his home. He calmly refused, saying God would save him. The waters rushed the streets, climbing the foundations of the homes. When the streets were filled, a rescue team in a rubber raft called to him, and he again refused, saying God would save him. The power of the water deepened and the flood was crashing through the windows of his home. He was now perched on his roof. A helicopter came and he still refused, saying yet again that God would save him.

The flood did what floods do and he drowned. On the other side, he was angry and bitterly questioned God, “Why didn‘t You save me?! I kept my faith till the end!” And God, perplexed, replied, “I tried. I called and sent a raft and a helicopter. But you wouldn’t come.”

Source | Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening, pages 307-308

PONDER AND CONSIDER

Like the thought of love, God starts in everything unseeable, but comes to us plainly in the things of this world.

We don’t let go into trust until we’ve exhausted our egos. | Rob Lehman

  • Close your eyes and pray for one thing you need.
  • Breathe deeply until the prayer loses its words.
  • Open your eyes and enter your day listening to the things around you, for they carry what you need.