They call it a foxhole prayer. These are the prayers that come out in times of great stress. This is when people pray because their back is to the wall. They’re afraid because it’s a life or death thing or they’re afraid to be caught.
Sometimes, prayers like this come when slumped over a toilet, the room is spinning around and no matter how you grab the walls; the room just won’t stop. Sometimes the foxhole prayer is quick and it comes fast because of the fear of falling over the ledge because danger is present—but meanwhile, most of my foxhole prayers came because I put myself in harm’s way.
And of course I swore things like, “I’ll never do it again. Just get me out of this and I swear, I’ll never do it again.”
In all honesty, either never isn’t such a long time or my short-term memory fails, but once the danger is removed, the foxhole moment and the prayers I pleaded are forgotten.
I ever tell you about the time I had to hide under a car behind the Church next to Prospect Park on East Meadow Avenue? Part of my problem is I was never very athletic. I was never able to run fast or hop fences very quickly. I was small though and very thin, which made it exceptionally easy for me to hide in small places.
I remember lying flat under a car to avoid being legally detained. My heart was beating through my chest. I was out of breath from running, wheezing, and whispering a prayer to God or anyone that would listen. I was scared beyond words because I knew if I was caught, bad things were about to happen.
I prayed and I prayed and I swore I would kick. I swore I would stop hanging out. I was gonna clean up, ask for help, get into a program, or speak to my parents and then lock myself away from the world and become a bible-school kid.
“I’m never doing this again!’
Apparently “Never” didn’t last very long. I swore though. I swore until it was safe for me to come out and slip away. I started walking fast down Bernard Street. It was late and dark. A man pulled up to me in his car and said “Get in,” with a familiar sense of urgency
I listened because I was unsure if anyone was still around. He was older than me and not a friend, but I knew he was someone from the town.
I didn’t say much. He drove me far enough away that I could make my way home without any legal interruption. Again, I didn’t know who he was, but apparently, he knew me. More accurately, the driver knew my older brother.
“And don’t go telling your brother about this,” he said. “I don’t need him kicking my head in.”
My prayers were answered, right?
I got away, right?
I must have forgotten about the promises I made. I must have forgotten about the things I swore to do because I was picked up a few weeks later for something else. This time, there was no getting away.
I remember pleading, “Please God, just get me out of this,” so many times and thinking “God ain’t listening.”
I remember the first night I found myself walking down the corridor after an arrest. Apparently, God was listening. That night, I had previously asked God to get me out of where I was. And so He did . . . it just wasn’t the way I thought.
Admittedly though, this was a very long time ago. I still have my foxhole moments because of stupid choices I make. I still find myself (figuratively speaking) scared as ever, wheezing like that scrawny kid I used to be that couldn’t run anymore, heart beating through my chest, and whispering prayers to, “Just get me out of this one.”
I do pray though. Not just for selfish reasons.
I pray that I will find my way. I pray that I will become the person I’m trying to be but sometimes, I swear, God has other plans.
I have friends that tell me there is no God. And I’m okay with that. I have friends that tell me they say I’m weak-minded because I believe in God.
Admittedly though, even a few of my atheist friends have found themselves in harm’s way, and like me when I was scared, they found themselves in a bad way and frightened with their heart beating through their chest, and although devout to atheism, they’ve prayed too.
I believe in the soul. I believe we all have this inner “Thing” and prayer; well, prayer is our soul’s way of speaking. Call it what you want, call it talking to myself, call me crazy, or call me whatever you want, but I have walked alone, up and down the shoreline along the beach at Point Lookout, and I have had some of the best, most comforting, most inspiring, and healing conversations that went on between me and my God as I understand him. I have taken to the roof above Lexington Avenue to watch the sun come up or go down with a cup of coffee in hand and had these very same kind of conversations.
I believe because I choose to. I believe because I feel better in my beliefs —and even if I’m wrong, if there is no God, if my prayers are words wasted and transformed into meaningless gas that wastes and goes away, what’s the difference if my prayers help me to feel better?
The say faith is belief without proof. Well, I have faith too. I have faith because I have seen some crazy things happen. I have faith because my faith warms me when times are lonely or otherwise cold. I have faith because at times when I am at my worst, something miraculous and beautiful comes along, like say, walking along in Grand Central Station and something links me back to an incredible time or feeling when I felt most alive.
The truth is I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. The truth is I don’t know what the reason is. I don’t know why we intertwine and overlap with people, places, and things. I just know that I Thank God for it.
By the way, when I was a kid, I used to walk through this field near my house and I would ask God for a sign, just to see if he was listening. I used to try and make deals with God too, but for some reason, they never seemed to pan out
Sometimes I laugh and think of God as like a bookie, laughing at me, and saying, “Are you crazy? Kid, you still owe me from the last time I saved your ass.”
Like I said before, I have friends that tell me there is no God. And I know why they say this too. But I have faith. I believe there is a God and Angels on Earth.
This has to be . . .
That’s why I have you