Freak in Training Part 3: Punch Drunk


The fewer the words, the better the prayer.
—Martin Luther

I got in a fight one time with a really big guy and he said, “I’m going to mop the floor with your face.” I said, “You’ll be sorry.” He said, “Oh, yeah? Why?” I said, “Well, you won’t be able to get into the corners very well.”
—Emo Philips

»Read Part 1: Cracking the User Manual
»Read Part 2: The Big Bang


Billy Graham once said that prayer is simply a two-way conversation between you and God. All I can say is that Mr. Graham has never eavesdropped on one of my little chats with the Almighty. Billy’s prayer time may be like sipping tea with the Queen, but mine tended to resemble a title bout with Mike Tyson.

amenMy basement bunker was more than just the place where I acquainted myself with Holy Writ; it was also where I learned the art of pietistic pugilism. In fact, each day, before I cracked the black leather cover of my Bible, I stepped into the ring for a few hard-hitting rounds with the Ancient of Days. Since God had unceremoniously knocked me to the mat, I figured I’d return the favor by pounding my way into the holy of holies or get KO’d trying. I never did subscribe to the principles of polite spiritual discourse. God meant for me and him to duke it out.

Each morning I descended the stairs to where my table and chair were set up. I laid my Bible on the table, tossed a small couch pillow onto the carpet, kneeled on it, then bowed my face to the floor and waited for the bell. This wasn’t an attempt to be religious, and nobody had ever told me that this was the way I should do it. (My early spiritual development was refreshingly free from dogmatic influences.) The face-plant just seemed the appropriate posture considering whom I was squaring off with. I may have been reckless, but I was not stupid. If I was going to go toe to toe with the Most High, it seemed good counter strategy to get as low as possible.

Since I was new at this prayer thing, I didn’t know jack about divine diplomacy. I had no idea you were supposed to address God with grand words like Thee, Thou, Thy, and Thine, kickor that when talking to deity you should add -eth or -est to all verbs. I was also ignorant of the many stock phrases required of any respectable prayer, such as if it be thy will or O Lord, we thank thee or we beseech thee, gracious Savior. On the contrary, my spiritual vocabulary was stripped and limited. In fact. there were some days when all I could muster was a simple O God. On those days, I forcibly funneled myself through the narrow aperture of those one and a half words, then thrust like a ramjet to punch through the invisible but palpable barrier above me. Whether the boundary was human limitation or heaven’s reluctance I still don’t know.

So each day I’d call out to the Lord with all my heart and soul and mind and strength. I rarely asked for stuff, though my Bible said I could. I wasn’t interested in prosperity or success or even spiritual gifts (which my Bible said were good things to ask for). All I really wanted was God himself. I had no idea what that actually meant (I still don’t), but nothing else even remotely mattered to me. I told God point-blank: “You can keep everything else. All I want is you!” This wild hunger, inflamed by the tantalizing promises of Scripture, kept driving me to my knees. My house often shook with the private storm of my cries.

There were times when my soul-clench was nearly unbearable. I would thrash on my knees for hours until, exhausted and unsatisfied, I would head off to work. But there were also times when something undefinable shifted and with a deep thrill I’d know for certain that I had gotten someone’s attention. Then, one day, I most definitely got somebody’s attention.

And it wasn’t God.

*   *   *

PART FOUR: Visitor from the Dark Side


One Response

  1. Yes! Finally! Someone else understands… I want God! Just God — All of God. The one, only true and living God. Almighty, who created sweet little lambs, humming birds, volcanoes, yellow jackets (still don’t know why He created those evil things) and hopeless, helpless, dummer’n dirt humans like me. Filthy of sin. Stink of sin. But He cleaned me up and I don’t smell like cow manure any more! Hooaah! Of all the things in my life, I just want to fall at the actual feet of Jesus and look up into the blinding glory that is the I Am. Now God has affirmed there are other people out there whose longing in this life is simply to know God, see all this world/stuff through His eyes … well, as closely as we can. I can’t begin to comprehend God. Some days, mornings especially looking out across the valley, through the fog watching the sun rise, all He created, the closest I can come is simply, ” Oh my”.
    Thanks Fred.
    Pat Beach

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