Mark S. King

(Not exactly) Like a Prayer

Filed By Mark S. King | November 18, 2010 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: LGBT families, prayer, Thanksgiving

Soon, as many families take a seat at their Thanksgiving table, after the food is set but just before the feasting begins, a paralyzing moment will occur. What now? They'll wonder, glancing left and right. Should we pray? Uncomfortable seconds will tick by. Finally, someone will ask to be passed something and everyone will dig in, grateful to get on with it.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for rockwell thanks 2.jpgWe used to pray, when I was little, when the family was young and the occasion was important and we were forced into this odd intimacy, with the mystical tones of something like church but at home. As a child the ritual was like a magic show, waiting spellbound as the secretive words were spoken.

My oldest brother Hal would pray at the dinner table with his head weighed heavily in his hands, as if he had a massive migraine or was avoiding the paparazzi. Maybe he was just embarrassed, since the act seemed so foreign and mortifying, like peeing in front of one another.

Once, Mom asked Dad to recite the Lord's Prayer at the Thanksgiving table. He started strong and then the words came more slowly, until his memory of the prayer - recited every Sunday in church services he wouldn't attend - failed him. Everyone just sat there in awkward silence, staring at our dad the heathen, until my mother finally prompted him, utilizing a Nancy Reagan whisper into his shirtsleeve.

It was about that time that prayer was discontinued at our dinner table. For a few Thanksgivings someone would suggest we all say what we were thankful for, but the practice faded. It seemed like some sort of consolation anyway. All the magic had long since been revealed.

PrayerMan.jpgToday, my recovery from being a drug addict includes many suggestions about prayer. It's encouraged, primarily for me to exercise enough humility to acknowledge there are powers greater than myself. After years of selfish using and living on my wits alone, it's an important reminder. But that doesn't mean I do it. Pray, that is.

I've been getting by with the claim that I meditate. Just the word "meditation" has less of the religious baggage than "prayer." It feels less embarrassing, more reasonable. Maybe I'm remembering Hal, with his head buried in his hands.

I do believe that an awesome power, a god out there somewhere, is responsible for my existence and good fortune. I'm just not in the habit of chatting him up to express my appreciation or even for a passing hello. Which means, if I believe something created me, I must be one ungrateful son of a bitch.

Interesting. I'll have to meditate about this.


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Mark I love your description where you say mortifying like peeing in front of someone. I like to think of it this way....prayer is asking, meditation is listening for the answer. I wish you all the best for a wonderful Thanksgiving. Oh, and I promise not to giggle if I ever see you pee. :)

Thanks Deena. It's weird, I could write about sex or even my HIV for days, but this topic made me very self conscious. Would the religious among us find me "unqualified" or (clearly) not reverent enough? But mostly, would all the wounded GLBT folks judge me for even bringing up the topic, or worse, just think I was (gasp!) religious type?

Issues, I have issues.

Prayer = asking
Meditating = listening

I really like that description, Deena.

Beautifully written, Mark. I have an uncomfortable relationship with prayer myself. I don't believe in a God that needs to be placated and fawned over. I don't believe that my higher power only helps me if I grovel. But I do believe in some kind of grand order and harmony. At least once a month (and daily during certain times of the year), I am expected to pray at work, and to say the Pledge of Allegiance. Although I can pray on my own (sort of) I get very irritated and uncomfortable at the public ritual. I purposely don't say "under God" when I say the Pledge, and I always wonder if anyone has noticed.

Very well written. The thoughts you express about the awkwardness of prayer are all too familiar. It may seem strange coming from someone who calls himself "Rev.", but I became very jaded about prayer decades ago.

I spent a couple of weeks at my Irish-Catholic grandmother's house one summer as a kid. She had a chapel in her spare bedroom and every morning before breakfast my uncle, the priest, said mass. He could rattle off a 45-minute service in 15 minutes with his stomach grumbling the whole time. He sounded like a country auctioneer trying to get the best price for a hog.

I'm totally okay with giving thanks and recognizing that there is a power greater than ourselves. I think it does us good emotionally and psychologically as well as spiritually and keep us humble. I just don't like the way American Christians have turned their savior into a comic book super hero.

Living in the Bible Belt has taught me that faith isn't something you can't wear on a t-shirt.

A supreme being doesn't need to be worshiped. That would be awfully shallow and insecure. It's us humans that need to believe in something bigger than ourselves. Think outside the spiritual box. Don't let others determine what you should believe in or how you should express it.

Liked your thoughts and comments. This that it may be better for individuals to pause and reflect on what they may be able to do to be a better person. Don't think the current "Christian" philosophy would take too kindly to that effort.

In my view, spirituality is even more intimate than sexuality. People are more likely to talk about their sex lives than their spiritual lives, in my experience. Mark King captures this intimacy with his usual adroit use of words, images, and stories. Kudos! I once wrote that I look forward to the day when we can give thanks for sex in the bedroom as readily and lustily as we give thanks for meals in the dining room!

My Thanksgiving table will represent a broad range of religious traditions. Our own typical practice does not include a prayer before meals.

As a kid, my family sometimes took a moment to think about what we had to be thankful for. We never actually discussed it, as my parents viewed it as something that was private.

My Partner and I are very spiritual people who pray/communicate with our God daily. We feel we are very blessed.

We feel sad that alot of Gays are alone on Thanksgiving. For the last sixteen years, we have had an open house and potluck every Thanksgiving.

bigolpoofter | November 19, 2010 9:29 PM

Mark,
Thanks for unpacking much of the BS that all people, not just LGBT folk, carry around regarding their relationship with a deity of their understanding and how that relationship reflects our needs for control, absolution, helplessness, and hope. On coming out of stimulant abuse in the mid-80s, I reclaimed adherence to the Christian tradition through MCC; yet, it always struck me as odd that many recovery traditions, instead of focusing solely on personal responsibility, invoked the notion of a higher power on which we could peg our addictions and healing [and aren't we still addicts, just not active ones?].
Fifteen years later, though, I exchanged the cross for a humanist-Buddhist perspective--a "hubu," if you will--in appreciation of the randomness of events and actions which I find a more plausible and healthful explanation for what lies beyond my understanding, as opposed to a something somewhere, the existence of which escapes truth. I may still call on Judeo-Christian metaphors frequently to explain and describe situations, but I'll pass on the rest of the religious package!

Best, always,
David