We all go through rough times in our lives, times when it is hard to imagine how to handle a problem, or work through grief, or make an extremely difficult and painful decision. As a much younger man my strategy, often, was to deny or ignore, but, most of the time, I would simply isolate myself by taking a walk in the woods or around the lake that was several miles from my home.
I was accompanied on those walks by my dog, Mandy. Just a mixed breed, part Lab, part mongrel and 100% loyal. She was a wonderful companion and a very good listener. She would often run ahead, maybe chase a rabbit, and return and walk along with me. During those times, I would tell Mandy why we were on this walk and I would explain my problem or why I was hurting. Often these conversations with my dog came out very much like prayers.
Occasionally, I would think, what a crazy picture we make: A man walking around a lake and through a woods, talking seriously to his dog. Even crazier, there were times when the dog seemed to be listening! There were times when my conversation (prayer) with my dog lasted a long time. There were times when I felt as if a bit of a load had been lifted and I often return from my walk just a little bit better for having taken it.
It does pose a question: What do such prayers look like, sound like, feel like? Oh, I know, some prayers are scripted, parts of liturgy. Some prayers are handed to us through the prophets, through Jesus’ words. Some prayers evolve out of Bible Studies, while others are spoken in times of bereavement or celebration. But what about those unscripted times, those times alone, those times when you catch yourself talking to… who…yourself? Or maybe talking to someone in the room that you cannot see, but you feel the presence.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not belittling spontaneous prayers, formal prayers, or any kind of prayers. I was just thinking that as I walked through those woods years ago, and I unburdened myself of my troubles and struggles to my dog, was it only the dog that was listening?
I believe we often make God too small. I mean, are we placing the deity in a defined place, like the Holy of Holies, where entering in was governed by rules. Or is our God everywhere? Or is God like this: “I will be with you always“. Jesus promises his disciples, just as he promises us, that He will be with us always. I guess that means He is there with us, listening, even on a walk, while I talk those prayers to my dog.
Think about that and may God bless you.
For what it’s worth.