“My dear Father in Heaven . . .
Could we have a little quiet around here? I’m praying.
But you called me.
Called who? I didn’t call anybody. I’m praying. My Dear Father in Heaven . . .
There. You did it again.
Called me. You said, “My dear Father in Heaven.”
Here I am. What’s on your mind?
Here I am. What’s on your mind?
But I didn’t mean anything by it. I was just, you know, saying my prayers for the night. I always say my prayers. I don’t feel good about going to sleep if I don’t.
Oh. All right. Go on.
Are you kidding?
You did want to talk to me, didn’t you?
Well . . . yes.
Here I am. Talk.
I’m thankful for my many blessings . . .
Excuse me again! How thankful?
How thankful are you for your ‘many blessings’?
I’m . . . well . . . I don’t know. It’s just a part of the prayer. Mom always told me I should always express my thanks when I pray.
Oh. Well . . . you’re certainly welcome. Go ahead.
With the prayer.
Oh. Yeah. Let’s see . . . bless the poor and the downtrodden, the unfortunate and the afflicted . . .
Do you really mean that?
Sure I mean it.
What are you doing about it?
Doing? What am I doing about it? Well . . . I’m praying about it. I just think that it would be nice if you got control of things down here. I don’t like to see people suffer.
Do I have control over you?
Sure. I go to church. I make donations sometimes. I even read the scriptures once in a while. I don’t . . .
That isn’t what I asked you. What about your temper? You don’t even have control of that, and your friends and family suffer. And then there’s the way you spend your money. And how about the kind of books you read? And the movies you see?
Well, Father, I think I’m as good as most of the people I see every Sunday at church.
And you are, but I thought you were praying for me to bless the afflicted. If that is going to happen, I’ll have to have help from the ones who are praying for it. Like you.
I understand. I guess I have a few hangups. Since you brought it up, I could probably mention some others.
So could I. Should we visit about them?
Oh . . . Let me get back to you on that. I need to finish up here. This is taking a lot longer than usual. Bless the honest in heart to come to thy Son and receive His blessings.
You mean people like Ralph?
Yes. The one you’ve taught your little brother, Joey, to call ‘Beer-belly Ralph.’ The man around the corner.
That Ralph? Ralph Swenson? You’ve got to be kidding. He hasn’t been sober since he was sixteen. And he hates organized religion.
I don’t know.
It couldn’t have anything to do with the names the neighborhood kids call him, could it?
OK. I get the message. I’ll tell Joey to cut it out.
By the way, have you had a look at his heart lately?
I have. I’ve looked. And it’s one of those honest hearts you were just praying about.
Well, then, do something about it. Do you think I like having an atheist for a neighbor?
Aren’t you supposed to share the gospel? I thought I’d made that pretty clear.
That’s scary. I wouldn’t have any idea how to approach him.
Try a little tolerance and friendship. Try a little service. If you get desperate, try asking me for help.
Father, wait a minute. I know I’m not perfect. But I am here, doing my duty, keeping your commandment to pray, and all of a sudden, you’re here, reminding me of all my problems.
Child, you called me. Remember? Keep on praying. I’m interested in the next part. You haven’t changed the order around, have you?
I don’t want to go on.
I know what you’ll say.
Try me and see.
Please forgive me of all my sins, and help me to forgive others.
What about David?
See! I knew it! I knew you’d bring him up. Listen, Lord. He told lies about me and I lost my job – the best job I ever had. Everyone in that office thinks I crawled out from under a rock, and I didn’t do anything except choose other friends! Am I supposed to let him get away with that?
But your prayers. What about your prayers?
I didn’t mean that part about forgiving.
Well, at least you’re honest. I guess you enjoy carrying that load of bitterness around, don’t you?
No, I don’t. But I’ll feel better as soon as I get even.
Do you want to know a secret?
You won’t feel better. You’ll feel worse. Listen to me. You forgive David, and I’ll forgive you.
Forgive me? For what?
For what? How much time do you have?
All right. Never mind. But, Lord . . . I don’t think I can forgive David.
Then I can’t forgive you.
Because I hate to encourage hypocrisy.
Oh. All right. Please help me to control my actions and not yield to temptation.
Good. I’ll do just that. But you stop putting yourself in all those places where you can be tempted.
What do you mean by that?
Quit hanging around the magazine racks and spending so much time in front of the tube. That stuff is going to get to you sooner or later and you’ll find yourself involved in something terrible. When you do, don’t expect me to rescue you, either.
Rescue me? I don’t understand.
Think about it. You’ve done it lots of times. You put very little effort into our relationship until you find yourself in a crisis; then you come running. I know just how your dad feels.
Your dad. The only time you talk to him is when you need something. As a matter of fact, it’s amazing how quickly the intensity of your prayers improves when you are in trouble. Do you remember some of those bargains you wanted to make with me?
Bargains? No . . . well, I don’t think . . . Oh yeah, like thet time I went to that show and met Mom’s friend on the street when I came out . . . Oh, brother!
Do you remember your prayer? I do. You said, “Oh, God, don’t let her tell my mother where I’ve been. I promise I’ll go to nothing but ‘G’-rated movies from now on.” She didn’t tell your mother, but you didn’t keep your promise, did you?
No, Father, I didn’t. I’m sorry.
So am I. Go on and finish your prayer.
No, wait. I want to ask you a question. Do you always listen to my prayers?
Every word. Every time.
Why haven’t you ever answered me before?
How many chances have you given me? There’s not enough time between your “Amen” and your head hitting the pillow for me to take a breath. How am I supposed to give you an answer?
You could, if you really wanted to.
No, I could if you really wanted me to. Child, I always want to.
Father, I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?
I already have. And thanks for letting me interrupt. I get lonely to talk to you sometimes. Good night. I love you.
Good night. And I love you, too.”