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A bleeping blessing

My neighborhood recently had its annual street fair. This involves closing off five or six blocks along Park Avenue so that people can meander, hear some live music, stop at food trucks, browse a small selection of items for sale, and learn about various community organizations. A couple of years ago I too set up shop, which means I wedged myself and my “Ask me for a blessing” sign between two booths in the middle of the fair.

Several people stopped — more than I normally get standing in front of my church — and they all were in a good mood. Two in particular were in a great mood. They were women in their 20s and clearly day drinking. As they got close enough to see my sign, one of them said quite loudly to her friend, “I need a [bleeping] blessing.” Fill in the bleep.

I yelled out, “Come on over!” and immediately questioned my decision to beckon someone drunk enough to use a curse word to modify “blessing.” But too late. They were standing in front of me, wondering what my deal was. They ended up being receptive to, or at least humored by, what I was doing out there. So when I asked for prayer requests, the one who’d expressed her need for a blessing told me the guy she liked was “being an a**hole.”

“Maybe we should pray that he grows up and starts treating you with a little more respect. Is that right?” It was right. This young woman kept talking about this young man, her feelings, and their relationship (or lack thereof). After every sentence, I would essentially paraphrase what she said in the form of a prayer, so the whole exchange stayed conversational. Then I closed with a blessing and an affirmation about God’s love. She had started blubbering about midway through, so she dried her eyes, let out a deep breath, and said, “I liked that blessing.”

What strikes me in thinking back on this encounter is how honest and incredibly direct this young woman was — perhaps because she’d been drinking, perhaps not. In any event, I wonder if she ever feels the freedom to be that candid with God in prayer. Most of us can easily talk about our problems to other people. But how often do we do that with God? How often do we give it to God straight?

I once stumbled across this saying I’ve grown to love: “Have you prayed about as much as you’ve talked about it?” We assume God knows what we’re going through, and of course God does. But getting something off your chest by telling God is different than getting it off your chest by telling another person. I’ve found that revealing the depth and difficulty of my struggles to God keeps me more open to God’s grace and peace.

So how about you? Have you prayed about it as much as you’ve talked about it?