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It’s OK to Pray With Eyes Open

posted by Prayables

Come on down here with me, baby girl.

I would walk on hot coals for my Grandmother, so getting down on my knees with her at bedside was no problem at all.  She wanted to make sure that, at 6, I knew how to pray.  She had me kneel, clasp my hands, and bow my head.  She was a good Baptist.

Before she could start praying, though, I just had to know: “Why do we have to close our eyes, Grandma?  Doesn’t God want us to see?”

“Hush now, chile,” she said while patting my back.

Grandma was not a good explainer of faith, but she was a great example of it.  She kept our family full of food, love, laughter, and church.  Lots of church.  At the time, I didn’t think I got much out of it.  It was overly crowded, not air-conditioned, too long, and since most of these people’s Sunday’s best was polyester, everyone sweat a lot.  Especially the preacher who delivered his sermons like an athlete — jumping, screaming, and throwing his fist in the air.  I imagined him on a basketball court, or in a boxing ring.

The long hot hours I spent in my childhood Baptist church made me want just three things: (1) for it to be over; (2) peppermint from Grandma’s purse; and (3) a nap.  The only thing I’d get from that list would be the candy, which I later learned should not be opened in other churches because you could hear the paper unwrap.  But in our church, you could not hear an entire roll of aluminum foil unwrap.  Yeah, it was just a little loud.

But thank God for the music, as that was the only thing on those marathon Sundays that reminded me I was surely alive, and had not yet died of boredom.  I tried to create ways to make my little church hand-fan stir more breeze.  I wondered just how long the ushers could stand with their left arm folded behind their back.  I marveled at the white gloves, shiny shoes and carnival hats.  I asked, “God, do You really care about all this stupid stuff?”

I told my Grandma how much I disliked church.  I begged her to pleeeeease let me wait for her in the parking lot where I could learn much more from wildflowers and creepy-crawlers.  Anything but the hot circus.

She agreed, and then smartly brokered a deal.  I could ‘skip’ church in exchange for memorizing a chapter from the Bible — we started with Psalm 23.

It was the perfect beginning.

-Erika Harris, Prayables

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