Should we pray standing up, kneeling, sitting, or prostrated on our face? Does your body’s’ position affect the reception of your prayers?
How long should we pray? A minute, hour, the time it takes a tall candle to burn down and snuff itself out?
What kind of language should we use? High formal English? Street slang? Is there a language God does not listen to as closely as another?
I don’t know all the answers; I don’t even know half the questions. I do know the most effective prayer I ever prayed; it was exactly seven words, barely gasped out, you probably would not have heard it if you had been right next to me. I was flat on my back in the middle of the street , with the front wheel a Chevrolet parked dead center on my chest.
It was mid – December of 1986, and I was driving a 650 Yamaha motorcycle, it was cold, in the thirties. Dinner was almost ready. I had worked outside the whole day and was ready to sit down to what smelled like a delicious meal in our cozy little kitchen with my wife and two sons. If you want to learn to love domesticity then work outside in thirty degree weather for eight hours, come home to a fresh cooked meal and a wife and children who are happy to see you, in a warm home with your name on the mortgage.
My wife decided the feast needed a crowning touch and announced that it would be another thirty minutes to brown the rolls; nothing like hot bread on a cold day. I wandered into the living room and browsed our meager collection of VHS tapes for a good family movie to round out the perfect domestic experience. On top of our new $1,000.00 Magnavox VCR [ we were as proud as Pontius Pilate of that machine ] was a rented tape that was due in today; the store closed in twenty minutes and it was a sore point in our family that we were paying more in late charges than in rental fees. So I decided to run the tape to the store and be back before the rolls came out of the oven.
Both of my sons [ 13 and 8 yrs old ] immediately set up the usual clamor to ride there with me.
“It’s too cold, and I’ve only got one helmet”, I told them, cutting off the argument.
“I’ll be back in fifteen minutes.” I told my wife with a quick kiss, and was out the door. There was the faintest look of puzzlement in her eyes, and I felt a fleeting strangeness as I settled on the bike; I almost never missed a chance to take one of our sons along with me, but I passed it off to the cold and thought no more of it.
It was about 6:00 o’clock and the traffic was beginning to thin. I pulled up to a red light at Irving Blvd. and Pioneer with no one in front off me. Sitting with both feet on the ground, I listened to the engine idling under me, laid my hands on my thighs and settled them farther into my gloves; the blackbirds where starting to congregate on the wires crossing the intersection; I wondered where they all come from.
BANG !!! – I was floating in the air, horizontal to the ground, it seemed like a long time, I thought ‘I must be pretty high’ . Then another smaller BANG and I was on the hood of a car and sliding off onto the pavement. I lay on my side, the face shield of my full helmet was gone, my glasses with it. I thought ‘Well, this is the worst thing that can happen to you on a bike, I’ve been hit from behind and I’m still alive’. I ran a quick inventory and noted that my calves ached but I could wiggle my toes, nothing seemed to be broken. I was working on getting up from the pavement when something bumped the back of my shoulder. I rolled onto my back. It was the wheel of a car. It bumped again, then the engine gunned and it came up my shoulder onto my chest, and stopped. Directly above my eyes were the two bolts on the bottom of the shock absorber; the tire was centered on my sternum. My left hand was under my back, my right was pushing against the side of the tire.
Compression. My ribcage was compressing, collapsing, my lungs my heart were compressing, time was compressing. I could feel my heart beating against the bottom of the tire; the air being squeezed out of my lungs.
The clearest picture formed in head; my wife sitting on the plaid covered couch in our living room, my sons on either side, waiting for me, waiting. Who will tell them? What on earth will they do?
My vision was narrowing, my hand was shaking with the strain of trying to push the tire, the car, off of my chest. A feeling of utter helplessness flooded me. I tried to turn my head and couldn’t, it was jammed solid under the car. With all that was left in me I called to God, as though He was standing nearby, “God, don’t let this thing kill me.”
The wheel immediately rolled off my chest and kept going. I felt myself rolling over and over, flopping under the car. The back wheels went across my legs and I wound up face down in the street listening to the car accelerating away.
My first thought was ‘I’m in the middle of the road and they can’t see me’. I raised up on my elbows and was trying to drag myself off the road when a man stopped me and told me to lay still, the ambulance was coming.
At the hospital they stripped me to my underwear and x-rayed me head to foot, then left me on the table alone for what seemed like a long time. Finally two doctors and two nurses came in and ranged themselves around the table. The doctor holding the x-rays started;
“Are you sure you were run over?’
“I’m pretty certain, it made a hell of an impression on me!”
“Well, nothing shows up on the x-rays, your urine is clear, so there is no apparent kidney damage, and we can’t find a cut, scratch, or bruise anywhere on you. Are you quite certain about this?”
“Where’s my clothes, I’m getting out of this cracker factory”, by this time I was starting to get mad.
The nurse brought a pile of my clothes and laid them on my lap. I picked up the heavy rubberized rain jacket I had been wearing for a wind breaker. Laying it on the table I arranged it front side up and stepped back to give them a good look at it. A perfect imprint of a tire ran from the right shoulder to the middle of the upper left arm, almost as though it had been inked before running over me.
The doctors and nurses looked at the jacket, then looked at me, then the jacket again then me again. They left and came back with more doctors and nurses to look at the jacket and me, then me and the jacket. I discovered that fame is greatly over rated, and I was still hungry, so I thanked the good doctors and went home.
For about two weeks after the accident, I was sore and stiff; I had to wrap my ankles with ace bandages to be able to walk and do my work. When people on the job asked why I seemed to be moving so slow I would tell them I was feeling a bit run down.
I told a good friend the whole story once; the hit from behind, flying through the air, the awful weight of that car on my chest. I told him what I had prayed, how it had been answered, the aches and pains of the month that followed. He looked at me with a queer expression and said;
” Maybe next time you should pray; ‘God, don’t let this thing Hurt me.’ ”
I considered him for a moment, decided not to hit him, and replied;
“Yeah, I’ll keep that in mind”