Thursday, June 22, 2017

Steve's Question, I

For the last week or so, I've been posting a lot of stuff about prayer. Here's how that all got started:

A friend and I were having lunch at a local restaurant a few months ago, and at one point, I went to refill my tea. When I came back to the table, he said, "Do you ever pray? I don't think I've ever asked you that before, but I was just wondering if you ever pray."

He nodded his head toward a couple of guys sitting at the next table. "Like that," he added. They both had their heads bowed and their eyes closed, and one of them was saying a prayer out loud -- not loud, just aloud. It was an extended one, not just a "thank you for this food" kind of thing.

My friend (I'll call him Steve) and I have known each other for more than two dozen years, ever since our kids were in preschool together. He became a client, then a friend, then a quasi-business partner. We shared an office for 10 years, and we continue to have at least one business client in common. We've had hundreds of lunches together and thousands of conversations on everything from women and wives to fishing and basketball to Buddhism and Donald Trump.

We even have the same birthday, just different years. He's the older, wiser one. I'm the younger, prettier one.

I don't know what it is, but many of my best friends over the years have been decidedly un-religious people -- in some cases even anti-religious. Maybe I'm drawn to such people because my own life is so saturated with religion and spiritual curiosity. True to form, Steve didn't grow up going to church, even though he was raised in the same Bible Belt I was. He doesn't believe in a God like the one described in the Bible. He sees religion on balance as a net loss, thanks to things like the Inquisition, various "holy" wars, and the Crusades, not to mention all of the preachers who condemn gays and deny climate change.

On the other hand, he maintains a curious and open mind, so it didn't surprise me that he would ask about these two guys praying in the restaurant. What DID surprise me, though, was to realize how little I'd said about prayer in all of our conversations. Looking back on it, I think it's because my prayer life is such an intimate, private part of my spiritual life.

But that didn't stop me from answering his question. More on that later.

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