Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Speedo Priest's Freestyle Prayer

This past summer's trip to Israel left quite a few impressions on me. Something about piggybacking onto a Romanian Eastern Orthodox tour of the Holy Land as Evangelical Christians created this strange tension. And although it was something that I've never experienced, (and will probably never experience again) I'm definitely thankful for the opportunity to hang out with a group of people that had a very different perspective on faith than I did.

I should start by explaining that we had two tour guides. One of them was your typical week-long excursion-type guide that gave us historical background and other insights at each of the sites we visited. Since many of the tourists were Orthodox church members from roughly the same city, the other guide was actually the priest that presided over the congregation from that area. He was tasked with guiding everyone from a more spiritual perspective.

The first time we got on the tour bus, the priest began the trip with quite a lengthy prayer. I'll be the first to tell you that I don't agree with a lot in the Eastern Orthodox religion, but this was actually a really beautiful prayer that contained a lot of Biblical truth. My dad even mentioned to me how much he liked it, and the trip started off pretty hopeful.

However, what we discovered the next morning was that, when we got on the bus, the priest gave a pretty similar prayer. By the morning after that, we were sure that this guy was praying the same exact prayer that he had the two days prior. And so we ended up hearing this same, drawn-out prayer for a week straight.

"And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him." (Matthew 6)
On one of the last days of the trip, we were given basically half of a day to relax and unwind from the hard work that is touring the Holy Land. Considering the blistering heat, on the way back from our morning excursion, me and my brother talked about jumping in the luxurious hotel pool. So we got to the hotel, changed into our swimmies, and got to the side of the pool. And much to our ________, (I'm not really sure what word to put here) the priest arrived by the poolside.

Me and my brother, who had not seen this man outside of his priestly garments the entire trip, soon found ourselves with our feet in the pool talking to a priest wearing nothing but a pair of Speedo's. For some reason, not a single other person from our tour group decided to go swimming aside from me, my brother, and the priest.

In our lively conversation, we covered a lot of subjects ranging from religion, to government, and to culture. After getting over the strangeness of seeing a priest transition from such thick, black, body-engulfing clothing to a bright blue Speedo, I found that the conversation had some pretty interesting points.

Is it not sad that the priest could speak more freely to us than He could to the God he claimed was his Father? Is it not exponentially more sad to know that the Almighty All-Creating God of everything wanted to speak to this priest as a dad does to his son, and yet this man could not see it?

Brother or sister, God does not want your fancy words. If you want to make a beautiful prayer, go ahead. But God is more concerned with connecting with you than He is with receiving a superficial layer of words that have no relation to the status of your heart.

I will give the priest one concession: at the end of each of these lengthy prayers, the priest would suddenly relax and start praying improvisationally, so to speak. The last portion of his prayer was always freestyle.

Brothers and sisters, let you prayers be freestyle.


Post a Comment