Exchanging morning pleasantries, my wife asked, "How you doing?"
I shook my head. "I lost my keys yesterday, our car needs some repairs, and I'm worried about our daughters traveling across country."
Then Mrs. Chaplain, as I like to call her when she's right about something, asks: "Have you prayed about it?"
"At this point," I said, "honestly, my prayers would sound more like griping."
"And there's something wrong with that?" she asked.
As I thought about her challenge, I realized there's a lot of stuff written and preached about prayer -- like the best-seller, "The Prayer of Jabez" -- but I don't think anyone's written a book called "Prayer of the Griper."
Too bad, really. Because I think I could suggest a great author to write that book. His name was Moses and he griped big-time.
He was out in the middle of the desert, where he'd brought his people to rescue them from oppression. Suddenly, the people started whining about the lack of good takeout choices.
So Moses asked God, "Why are you treating me this way? What did I ever to do to deserve this? Where am I supposed to get meat for all these people?
"Hey, if this is how you intend to treat me, do me a favor and kill me. I've had enough."
Not a prayer for the faint of heart.
Nevertheless, God answered the prayer and God said to Moses, "Gather together 70 men from among the leaders of Israel, men whom you know to be respected and responsible. I'll take some of the Spirit that is on you and place it on them; they'll then be able to take some of the load (and) you won't have to carry the whole thing alone."
In the end, Moses didn't get struck dead for the audacity expressed in his prayer. Quite the opposite. God answered the prayer.
Now, I don't pretend to know how prayer works -- though I've heard many profess to knowing -- but I think Moses' prayer worked for two reasons.
First, the prayer was simple and direct. No analogies, no metaphors, no colorful or obtuse tangents. God likes us to be direct. Whenever I meet someone who says they've got a raw deal, I challenge them: Talk to God directly, not behind his back.
Go right up to God (wherever you talk to God) and say, "Hey, God! My life stinks!" Or whatever other description you want to use. Or like Anne Lamott likes to pray,
Second, the prayer worked because God heard the heart of the prayer -- honesty. In the midst of the griping, God heard a confession known by anyone in a 12-step recovery process. It's a prayer that in its various wordings says, "I'm powerless to do anything by myself. I need help."
It was the same kind of prayer my wife was challenging me to pray. Later that day she asked, "Find your keys yet?"
"No, but I think God's given me a plan to find them."
"Yeah, how do you feel about having 70 readers come over and help me look for my keys?"
"Really, you got 70 people reading your column now?"
I wonder how she'd like the name Mrs. Moses.