by Sandra Kramer
Learning to Pray
When I was growing up, I was exposed to Michelangelo, Rubens, and Frederico Barocci who depicted biblical passages in magnificent art. I appreciate art, but it was hard for me to conceptualize God as a being contained in the body of bearded European man. The only images of an altruistic deity I could really embrace were composed by Niroot Puttapipat who illustrated Clement Clark Moore’s poem “The Night Before Christmas.”
Not surprisingly, I unconsciously lumped God in with Santa Claus; and my prayer life was a direct reflection of my misinterpretation of my place in God’s creation. I asked God for a puppy, a big brother, and a new bicycle. I asked God to make people do what I wanted them to do and to bail me out all sorts of predicaments I created. I gave him my wish list with a dismissive “Get back to me when you’re done with that and I’ll give you some more stuff to do. Amen.”
I had no idea that my whims might not be aligned with God’s will. On more than one occasion I was REALLY ANGRY at God when I didn’t get my way. I quit talking to him sometimes because I was a spiritually selfish, peevish child. But when I became very ill, I turned to him again to utter the three desperate words of my life and death crisis: “Please help me.” The fact that I am writing today is a product of a miracle.
Over the past year, I have realized the fault of my faith. God is not at my service, I am to be of service to him. For me to be of service to God, I have to ask him daily to take away my fear, my ego, my stubbornness and my impatience; for these are the flaws in my character that always separated me from him and his work on earth.
Now, daily, I ask God for only a few simple, but complex things: “God, please grant me faith, willingness, patience, humility, and let me be of service to others. Amen.” This one daily prayer is always answered.
And sometimes, God even lets me be his Santa Claus.