20 May 2010

Bringin The Prayer

A few days ago, I was invited by my good friend Larry Whitson to have dinner with him and his family. Not realizing that he had also invited 30 of his friends from First Nazarene to the dinner as well, I gratefully accepted. Larry has had some hard times in his life over the past couple of years and I knew that letting him cook food for me would be in the spirit of giving generosity.

I arrived early, carrying a bottle of Publix Grape Soda. I handed the soda off to Larry's wife (who, frankly speaking, was not as appreciative of the gift as I might have hoped) and Larry and I retired to the "parlor" for a quick game of dominoes before dinner. It was when I caught him cheating for the third time that the other guests began arriving. I tried to hide my displeasure, but it wasn't easy. I have an intense dislike for large groups, especially in settings where I know I'm going to be expected to mingle. In fact, sitting there in front of our aborted game, I silently vowed that I would not speak to a single guest of the Whitsons.

My plan was somewhat foiled when, moments later, we all sat down to dinner. Because the Whitson dinner table sat only eight, the rest of the guests (including me) had to find various places to sit in the living room, the hallway, the kitchen, and even the back porch. More often than not, this meant sitting on the floor (which smelled not a little like cat urine). I was fortunate enough to grab a seat on Larry's recliner, which had suspicious looking brown spots on the lower back rest. I settled in with a glass of grape soda and a plateful of macaroni and cheese (which I assumed to be some sort of appetizer but later realized was the main course). That was when Larry did the unforgivable.

Rising from his seat at the head of the table, Larry welcomed all of his guests and then said, "Before we eat, I'd like to ask my good friend Shawn to lead us in prayer. Shawn?"

Every eye in the house turned to look at me. For a brief moment, I thought about throwing my plate of macaroni to the ground and making a mad dash from the house, screaming, "I'm on fire! I'm on fire!" I now believe I missed a golden opportunity in not doing so. People do crazier things all the time.

Knowing that any attempts to protest would be seen as sacrilegious God-hating by this swarm of elderly, stern-faced churchgoers, I stood up and decided to recite the one prayer I knew--The Lord's Prayer.

"Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name," I intoned, subconsciously adding a few layers of bass to my voice. This was going surprisingly well. I hadn't prayed in public since...well, it was quite possible that I had never done it before. Here I was making my debut in front of a tough crowd, with mac-and-cheese cooling on my plate, and it was going great.

Except I had already forgotten my lines.

Hallowed be thy name...hallowed be thy name. CRAP! What's next?

I felt a line of beaded sweat break out on my forehead as I struggled to remember the rest of the prayer. Silence drew out and though I steadfastly kept my eyes closed, it was not protection enough from the eyes I felt sure were slowly opening around the room, piercing me with their impatient glares. I had to improvise, and fast.

"The Lord is my shepherd, and lo shall I walk the path. The path of iniquities and forsooth."

Okay, you just used the word forsooth. Get it together, man!

"Rare is the bird that catches the morning worm. High is the pride of the fallen knight."

I heard two distinct throat-clearings and something that could have either been a stifled sneeze or a snort of laughter. I vowed never to attend First Nazarene Church, nor drive down the road where it was located (even though this meant I would have to take an extraordinary long route to get home on most weekdays).

"Thank you for the food of our nestled breast and deliver us from the harms of snakes."

"Be not angry with us and wind the clocks of our advancing age with trust and goodness. Umm, amen."

Though I had little experience with public prayer, I knew that it was customary for several others to echo the "amen" portion of the prayer. No one did on this day. I opened my eyes and was not surprised to see a vast sea of confusion among the guests. I thought about offering an explanation. I considered blaming my heathen ways on the tutelage of Reverend Frank Wilson, but I decided to just sit and eat my dinner instead.

Later that day I found a turtle in my mailbox, but I'm still not sure if that is in any way related.


mama-face said...

LOL A turtle in your mailbox. Never a good sign.

I LOVE the quote on your sidebar. I've received a few "comments" that sound a lot like that...hmmm...

Jeff said...

Looks like a fine prayer to me, at least as good as any other I've heard, and actually far more creative.

I think the turtle thing can be found in the Book of Acclusions. "Yea, a turtle shall appear." (I think that translation is wrong, though. What they actually wrote was: "Yay! A turtle shall appear!" Turtles were very popular back then.)

foxy said...

I personally appreciate your sampling of different, er, things in your prayer. Quite a collection there! And I hate snakes, so high five there too. Not only would I have given an amen, but it would have been enthusiastic.

Quirkyloon said...

Hey at least you remembered to bless the food.

I say it's all good.


Eric said...

It's ok, I think we've all been there falling back on our original Latin as a crutch because the English is not so good in those public speaking prayer situations.

Shawn said...

Mama-face: Really? Man, here I thought I was special.

Jeff: Turtles have declined in their popularity, haven't they? They've certainly declined in number, although some of that is my fault (a story for another day).

Foxy: Agreed on snakes. And now we're running out of antivenom for coral snakes, so the danger is worse than ever.

Quirky: That food was blessed. Macaroni and cheese is a delight (though growing it is harder than you might think).

Eric: True enough. I would have done the same, but it would have just resulted in me saying E pluribus unim over and over again.

The Queen said...

Father son and the holy ghost.. first to sit will get the most!

Sorry.. we were a big family..and we like to eat... and if you were not quick.. you starved.. so that was our prayer at the table..

hey.. it worked!

Candy's daily Dandy said...

SO...a poet you're not. Whatevs

Marissa said...

You could have just channeled the ever dramatic Rev. Jesse Jackson. No one ever quite knows what he's saying anyway.

Shawn said...

Queen: Works for me, I guess I should've kept it short. Much like I should have done with the post itself.

Candy: No, but I'm a champion speller.

Marissa: Ah...noted for next time.

Cassie said...

Next time, just say, "Lord, thank you for not letting me crap my pants in front of all these fine Christians here. Amen."

Shawn said...

Cassie: Judging by the average age of the guests, I'm guessing that wouldn't have gotten too many Amens either.

vange said...

You fared far better than I would have. I imagine I would have yelled, "Hail Mary! Communion! FESTIVUS!" and then fled, having actually caught on fire.

kanishk said...

I say it's all good.
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Acadia said...

I can teach you how to say: "God made us and then quickly lost interest" in Aramaic in case it happens again...

vange said...

I can only teach you how to swear in Polish or Yugoslavian.

Shawn said...

Vange: I think that might have actually been more appropriate. And I'll take both you and Acadia up on the language lessons.

Kanishk: If you say so, then it is so.