For a long time I judged the effectiveness of prayers by the number of prayer hums they received.
Those little sounds of affirmation that we give each other when we pray together. Go through a long prayer without as much as a sigh from someone and you feel like you have wasted your time. Actually a sigh might be worse. It might be a sign that you’re going on a little bit too long about how you want healed from your man flu. You’re getting no sympathy there buddy. Unless you’re just praying with men. Then the hums might be deafening.
Maybe it’s a Northern Irish thing. We’re too reserved to be shouting out Amen’s all over the place so instead we just grunt. Don’t want to be getting too big headed now.
But actually I have come to love the Prayer hum. I used to think that people only did it so they sounded holy themselves. You know like, “oh yeah God, what she said, that’s good! See how in love I am with you”. Like pretending you were fans of Cat Nap all along.
But when I found myself utilizing the prayer hum yesterday with some friends I realized it’s not like that at all. And you can be assured I am as far from Holy as you can get. But now I sound like I’m trying to sound Holy by stating how UN-holy I am. You just can’t win can you?
In fact after the first hum I realized I didn’t mean to. It just popped out. (the hum that is, nothing else) I don’t know how but out it came and later I gave some thought about why I did it.
The reason I think is that there was something being said that I identified with innately. Someone else had put words to a deep longing or fear or rejoicing that I felt myself. That is why we prayer hum. The hum is a sign that we aren’t on our own. We are part of something far bigger than any of us, but includes all of us.
A friend of mine Tom pointed out recently that the Lord’s prayer was meant to be said together. That is, the words don’t include I’s or My’s, but Our’s, We’s (ah grow up..really?!) and Us’s. Jesus blueprint for how to pray was for people together. Was Jesus idea for prayer meant to be that we prayed with other people? Yeah Jesus prayed on his own and we should too but have we missed the bigger point?
Jesus also had some harsh words for people who prayed out loud just to be seen and to sound Holy. For people who prayed publicly so that they looked powerful and better than you. For everyone who prayer hums just to look good.
Was Jesus saying that we can’t pray on our own until we learn to pray with each other?
Think about it. If you are praying publicly just to look good to those around you then you won’t pray on your own. Who are you going to look good to then? No one can see you. No one can hear you.
But pray with a bunch of people and you start to realize that you aren’t alone and that what you are thinking is what most of everyone is thinking too. Prayer serves each other as much as it pleases God.
Pray with others openly and without fear of having to sound Holy and super spiritual and you realize that not only do you get something out of it but you are more likely to be open to God at other times. When you are on your own reading, or cycling or walking.
We all struggle to pray on our own and spend time with God. So what if we dared do that with other people first. What if we put our fears and worries about how we will sound aside and follow Jesus’ example and pray together.
Because I’m starting to see that we can’t do this on our own.
We need others.
And humming always sounds better when it’s in harmony.