A 10-year-old boy rocks from one foot to the other in right field. The thought of a ball flying through the air at great speed toward him terrifies him. His fear of dropping the ball and failing in front of his team and his father sitting in the stands paralyzes him. Please don’t hit the ball to me. Please don’t hit the ball to me. Please don’t hit the ball to me. The batter knocks a grounder to the shortstop. Phew! Thank goodness.
A Grade 11 girl slumps in her chair in math class. She had intended to do her homework the night before, but she had basketball practice after school, then she worked at the store until 9:00. She got home and finished the English essay due that morning. Math just didn’t get done. The teacher says, “OK class, let’s look at last night’s homework assignment.” The girl melts into her chair. Please don’t call on me. Please don’t call on me. Please don’t call on me. The teacher crosses to the other side of the room. “Logan, what did you get for question one?” The girl closes her eyes. “Thank you.”
A young mother rocks her 2-year-old in the waiting room of a busy medical centre. The toddler’s feverish face presses into her chest. The mother watches as person after person enters the room ahead of her. A nurse appears at the door. Please let me be next. Please let me be next. Please let me be next. The nurse calls her name. Oh, thank God. The mother grabs the diaper bag and follows the nurse.
No kneeling required
In my post last week I wrote, “I believe that prayer is innate and that we all do it.” A reader told me that I was wrong, which, of course, I could be. But I don’t think so.
Agreed, if you think of prayer as kneeling by a bedside with hands together and head bowed, or as sitting in a pew with eyes closed, then, no, not everyone does that. If you believe that prayer requires structure, organization, a certain body position and intention then, no, not everyone does that.
But there are many ways to pray, and I believe (that is your cue to go along with this, or not) if one way to pray could be defined as sending a plea out to the universe for events to sway in a way that helps us along, then we all do it. If another way could be thoughts of gratitude sent out to the universe, then we all do it. I believe that unconsciously, reflexively, unintentionally and every day, we all do it.
Please and thank you
The stories I started this piece with are fictional but true. If you’ve never experienced any of those situations yourself, then you likely know someone who has.
My fictional characters above had no idea that they were “praying.” If someone, in casual conversation, asked them if they ever prayed, they might say, “No.” And, almost certainly, if someone strolled up beside them and said, “Let us pray” they would freeze and withdraw. But pray they did, unconsciously, reflexively, unintentionally. We don’t need to be stuck, alone, upside-down, overnight in a cold combine to pray. We do it when rush-hour traffic makes us late for a court appearance. Please, please, let me get there on time.”We do it when a glassy-eyed man reeking of alcohol reels down the aisle of our city bus. Please don’t let him sit next to me. We do it when we’ve taken refuge in a coffee shop to spend a peaceful hour reading and relaxing and an entire playgroup of preschoolers pops in. Please let them do take-out. We certainly do it when we’re pulling for our favourite sports teams to win. Please let the Blue Jays come back in the bottom of the ninth.
If you monitor your thoughts, I mean really think about what you think about, you might notice how often your thoughts include “Please” and “Thank you.” Thoughts not addressed to anything or anyone in particular, just supplications and gratitude to the universe. I even believe that you can’t prevent yourself from doing this. When our first plea goes unanswered—when we find ourselves enveloped in alcohol fumes next to a glassy-eyed man on a bus—we just move our request up a notch. Please don’t let him talk to me.