As we head into Shabbat, an excerpt from an essay by Thomas Lynch, in “Bodies in Motion and at Rest: On Metaphor and Mortality”:
When I was a child all of my prayers sounded like “Gimme, Gimme.” I wanted a Jerry Mahoney puppet, to fly like Superman, and for my brothers and sisters to be adopted by other kindly parents and leave me and my mother and father alone. I got none of these things. These prayers were never answered.
When I was my son’s age, I’d always begin with “Show me, Lord.” I wanted a sign. I wanted God to prove Himself or Herself or Itself to me. In this I was a typical youth, full of outrage and arrogance and bravado. . . . The proofs I prayed for never appeared. None of these prayers were ever answered.
For years, twenty of them anyway . . . I’d pray, albeit infrequently, “Why me, God?” The more I drank, the more I prayed it. . . . I was carping daily . . . The silence out of heaven to these questions was real. . .
Someone told me that I should just say “Thanks,” and that all my prayers should begin that way and never stray far from the notion that life was a gift to be grateful for. I began by giving thanks for my family, for the blessings to my household, the gifts of my children. Then the daylight and the nightfall and the weather. Then the kindness you could see in humankind, their foibles and their tender mercies. . . . I could be thankful even for this awful illness – cunning, baffling and powerful – that has taught me to weep and laugh out loud and better and for real. . . .
And every time I say it, the prayer gets answered. Someone, out of the blue, every day – maybe my wife or someone at the office or the guy in the line at the airport or something in a letter that came in the mail, or something in the lives of my sons or daughter – someone gives out with a sign or wonder in the voice of God, in some other voice than mine, to answer my prayer. Every day, every time, never fails, if I just say “Thanks,” I’ll get the answer, before the darkness comes – “You’re welcome,” it says. “You’re welcome.”