A terrible, terrible thing happened the other evening. Fionnuala and I have been trying to get into the routine of praying together every night before we go to sleep. What with the chaos that is sharing a house with three kids and a border terrier dog this is often the only oasis of calm in our otherwise hectic schedule.
Anyway this night had been no different than any other. I had finished praying and Fionnuala was, as ever, performing the ‘sweeper’ role of praying over the many matters that I had overlooked. It had been a long day and while I try very hard not to ‘pray by numbers’ this had not been my most scintillating conversation with God.
As Fionnuala prayed I endeavoured to stay focused but, before I could curtail it, a yawn began to form in the core of my being. Realising that this was a virtual death sentence if I let it pass my lips (God would forgive me. Fionnuala I wasn’t so sure.) I fought valiantly to suppress it. But it was like a broken pencil. Pointless. And the yawn rolled resplendently out of my mouth, reverberating off our bedroom walls.
Yawning during prayer. A new low in my Christian journey. What next? Belching as the sermon is in full flow? Bottom burps as the collection basket is being passed round?
After wheedling and grovelling my way into my wife’s good books (Did you just yawn there?!? During my prayer?!?!) I apologised profusely to God as well. I mean how rude. Imagine if you were talking to your best friend and they let out a mighty snort in the middle of it. You wouldn’t be best pleased I would imagine.
The good news for me is that I don’t have to apologise to God. I can yawn, sneeze, laugh, cry or hyperventilate during prayer. He doesn’t care. He just wants to hear from us. And the most natural and direct way to do this is via regular prayer.
For many years I was burdened with guilt and secrets. Bogged down in sin. Depressed and despairing as it gnawed away at me. I tried to soften the pain. Alcohol, food, social media. I danced with all these addictions. I danced until my heart and the hearts of my loved ones were battered, bruised and eventually broken.
But now I pray. I don’t let it fester. I don’t let it eat me from the outside. I dealt with my OCD through medication and talking about it to Fionnuala. I deal with my other worldly worries now via the spiritual medication of prayer and chewing the fat with the Lord.
There are several theories as to why we yawn. One is that it occurs when the bloodstream has excessive levels of carbon dioxide and needs to expel these and replace them with oxygen. Prayer is a bit like that too. Getting all the junk out of our minds. Handing it over to God and replenishing our minds and souls with the life affirming oxygen of the Holy Spirit.
So if you ever pray and a yawn sneaks out don’t beat yourself up too much about. God understands.
As for your wife however….
When is your favourite time to pray?
When did you last have prayer answered ?
What is your most embarrassing prayer experience ?