71. The Turnspike Emails: Sabotaging Prayer

It is the solemn duty of TMTF to present another diabolical email intercepted from the demon Turnspike to his colleague Goreflak. TMTF has previously succeeded in obtaining three of Turnspike’s emails, the latest of which can be found here.

My dear Goreflak,

Your latest email came as no surprise to me. Do not despair, my dear devil. What you are experiencing is nothing unusual. It is, in fact, something every tempter experiences sooner or later. As different Patients are assigned to us, it is inevitable that some of them turn out to be Christians. It is equally inevitable that some of these Christians pray to their God.

I admit this makes things difficult for us. Prayer is the great weapon our Enemy has given his people against us. In more general terms, prayer is one of the greatest gifts God has lavished upon his people.

Prayer enables Christians to build a relationship with our Enemy—as though the human vermin deserve a relationship with the Lord God Almighty himself! Prayer grants God opportunities to give his people peace and faith and other ghastly things. Prayer even allows Christians to make requests of God. How he panders to his people! He actually lets them ask for favors, like a father indulging his children! Disgusting!

I will not sugarcoat it, my dear devil. From Our Father’s point of view—which is, I need hardly add, the superior point of view—prayer is an abomination.

How, you ask, can we possibly make progress with our Patients when they insist on asking our Enemy for help? Fear not, my dear devil. We have many methods for sabotaging prayer. The most effective of these is, of course, to prevent Patients from praying: using distraction or guilt or misconceptions to turn them away from him.

This, however, is a topic for another email. For now, I will give you a simpler lesson.

To begin, I must teach you something extremely important. I repeat: extremely important. Much of what I will teach you about prayer hinges on this one fact. Pay attention, my dear devil.

Our Enemy wants prayer to be part of a relationship: a conversation between God and his people. We want prayer merely to be part of a religion: a recitation and nothing more.

Do you understand? Our Enemy wants prayer to be an activity requiring two parties: the speaker and the listener, your Patient and the Enemy. We want prayer to be something entirely different. We want prayer to be an activity requiring only one party: a performer babbling to himself.

Having explained the theory, let us put it into practice.

If you cannot prevent your Patient from praying, then make sure his prayers are as glib and meaningless as possible. Give him the idea that prayer is fundamentally different from all other kinds of communication. Fill his prayers with words and phrases he would never use otherwise.

I have kept a prayer from one of my former Patients. This prayer is one of the best examples of its kind I have ever seen.

Our Father who art in heaven, we thank you for this food. God, just bless the hands that prepared it and bless it to our bodies. Be with Jeff tonight, God. Shower him with your grace, God, and just keep your hand on him. In thy name we pray, Amen.

There are several things about this prayer that delight me. First, my Patient never used archaic phrases like who art and thy name in her usual conversations. She believed it was holier to use old-fashioned language in prayers. Second, she said God the way most people say um or uh. For my Patient, the name of the Lord God Almighty was just a word to fill in the pauses.

Most importantly, my Patient filled her prayer with meaningless expressions. My Patient was not asking our Enemy for help digesting food when she said bless it to our bodies. It was an expression she had heard, so she used it. When, speaking of her friend Jeff, she petitioned God to shower him with your grace and just keep your hand on him, she had no idea what her request even meant. It simply sounded churchy. In the end it meant nothing. The prayer was not a prayer. It was a mealtime ritual, like asking “May I please be excused?”

Make your Patient’s prayers meaningless, my dear devil. Keep him from suspecting even for an instant that talking to our Enemy might be anything like talking to another person. Persuade him to treat prayer as though it were just a daily ritual or habit.

Prayer is one of the foundations of the Christian life. Remove or weaken it, and the whole thing comes crashing down.

Keep me informed of your Patient’s progress, and make sure he progresses downward. You know the penalty for failure.

Your affectionate colleague,

Turnspike

45. Give Us This Day Our Daily Schedule

An acquaintance of mine once uttered this profound insight: “Procrastination is just an extreme form of patience, and patience is a good thing.”

By this standard, I’ve been extraordinarily patient for the last two weeks.

In fairness, I’ve had a number of distractions: graduating from college, packing, traveling to Uruguay, unpacking and playing Skyward Sword. Before arriving in Uruguay, I had ambitious plans to write at least half a dozen posts for TMTF to spare myself the stress of desperately composing a post at the last minute. Within five or ten minutes of actually arriving in Uruguay, my plans to work ahead on my blog had been forgotten.

Now at last I’m resuming my sensible plan of working out a tentative schedule for TMTF a week or so in advance. Since I’m trying to figure out a schedule for the blog, this seems like the perfect time to mention the most unexpected strategy I’ve discovered for keeping in touch with God: scheduling.

I believe Christians are supposed to keep in touch with the Lord through prayer and reading Scripture—not as a requirement for salvation but as a response to it. Jesus said something clever about branches not being able to bear fruit unless they remain in the vine, meaning his followers won’t be productive unless they remain in a consistent relationship with him.

Fact of Importance: Prayer and reading the Bible aren’t part of a system to earn God’s favor. Christians don’t have to earn anything. Studying Scripture and praying are simply the best way to keep in touch with God: to honor him, learn from him, be encouraged, be corrected and be ready for action.

The other day I was reminded of a simple and decidedly unspectacular method for being consistent in praying and reading the Bible. I speak, of course, of the fine art of scheduling.

The more I procrastinate, the less motivated I become to pray or read the Bible. If I choose not to procrastinate—in other words, if I choose to pray and study Scripture early in the day while I’m refreshed from a night’s sleep and fueled by coffee—I’m able to face the rest of the day with greater motivation, enthusiasm and confidence.

(This also proves the potential spiritual benefits of coffee.)

Scheduling isn’t an impressive strategy, but it’s done more to help my relationship with God than almost anything else.

Are you a “patient” person? What strategies help you get things done? Let us know in the comments!