You can find me in meetings on many days in a busy week: long ones, short ones, good ones, and boring ones. Yesterday, I was at a pre-program meeting for a panel discussion on spirituality. There are three of us who will be speaking and a moderator. We were told to prepare and practice our remarks in advance; we would each have five minutes to speak, followed by Q & A. I was yawning already.
I’ve found that when someone reads a well-written and rehearsed speech; you can pretty much count on it sounding like a well-written and rehearsed speech. Then there’s the poorly written and not-rehearsed-much speech. Both types make for very boring presentations. What will really grab an audience is a story. Let me finish telling you about the planning meeting. I suggested that instead of writing out what we would say, we could jot down bullet points of what we wanted to cover and simply tell our story.
My idea was vetoed with careful diplomacy, it wouldn’t work. One fella said he could not talk about spirituality in five minutes without notes. Besides, he said, if he gets too personal, he’ll get emotional. Next, we went around the table to “get acquainted.” Dontcha know it? My new friend told us the most touching story about his spiritual journey—un-rehearsed. I scribbled his key points (four) on a post-it note I kept hidden on my lap. I timed him with my iPhone (six minutes.) And, I grabbed a Kleenex for my tears. That boy can make a speech that’s not boring!
A story that’s interesting is one that’s sincere. Even if you’re using someone else’s words—you need to believe every syllable. What if you’re not talking to anybody else? What if you’re trying to convince yourself of something you want desperately to believe in—but don’t. Like faith, or prayer, or God. How can someone be spiritual- religious even, and not be a believer? In Judaism, you don’t have to believe in God to be a Jew. My Christian friends tell me you must accept Jesus to be a Christian. These are conflicting viewpoints that come together in exactly the same place: Prayer brings believers and non-believers closer to God.
Tell God a story and don’t be boring. Open yourself up and pray for the strength to bear your burdens. Share a happy memory and be thankful to God for having lived that moment. Vent about how sick and tired you are of violence, pain and injustice; ask God for help in remaining indignant long enough to take action. Whether it’s your story and you lived it, or it’s someone else’s story and it touched you. Pray with a story and you’ll find a captivated audience.
Here’s a story to pray with from Prayables:
Make Life, Make Sense
Woke up and felt a fissure
in my faith today,
but there is just no way
to take my heart out of its groove.
All is well.
There’s always a way.
Help me get past
my need for everything
to make sense right now.
Abide with me.
Tolerate my lapses.
I’ll take the trials,
if it comes with a home
filled with warmth and laughter.
I’ll bear up under the pain
if it leads to a deeper faith.
I can’t see the whole tapestry;
help me not to pull
a stray thread in anger,
unraveling myself in the process.
- Ruth Williams