Watch What Falls...Prayer and RooK


I was feeling hemmed in a couple of weeks ago. I got a call asking me to do something for the next several months, and it left me feeling frustrated.  I tried to remember my own words on the blog post “They Have No Wine”. After reading that post, a friend told me she had begun to make a game out of it - trying to state her prayers in 4 words.  Upon hearing that, I realized she had taken my words and turned them into a good spiritual practice  - one I should adopt, especially since I wrote the blog post. So in four words I prayed the problem and hoped like crazy that I was not the answer. 

That’s the problem with prayer.  If I open myself up to stating the need, then I’m opening myself up to becoming part of the answer,  though often I’m not. Mary wasn’t part of the answer.  Jesus didn’t ask her to stomp one grape or fill one jar with water as far as we can tell.  Her part in that story was to look at him with the problem and believe that he would solve it.  Oh, and she does tell others standing nearby to obey Him.  Yeah - I don’t love that word either, but she said to the servants, “Do whatever He says.”  One can only assume she was ready herself to ‘do whatever He said’. 

That moment is a turning point and so often the one where I turn back.  I don’t want to pray because prayer is a threshold I’m afraid to cross - a room that if I enter I become vulnerable.  And yet the irony is that I usually go into ‘problem solving mode’ when I don’t pray. I launch into analysis and list-making, thinking and action, regardless of how crowded my week already is.   The further irony is that I hate both of those rooms even more than vulnerability.   

My third choice is to pray four words and stand there looking at Jesus, just like Mary did.  Watch! Listen! Don’t move unless and until He tells me to, but be ready to do whatever He says, risks included.  

I grew up playing Rook with my family. I loved being my dad’s partner because he made the game so much fun.  He would bid high if he had the bird, even if the rest of his hand wasn’t that great. “I’d just as soon go out the back door as the front door” he’d say, meaning that playing the game with risk was where the fun was.  

My dad’s other phrase from Rook games that lingers in my memory is this:  Watch what falls, Leah.”  Over and over he said it as he taught me how to play.  He was telling me to pay attention, watch what he played, notice what our opponents played - usually my mother and my sister - keep my eyes on him, my partner and on what was happening right in that moment, remember the patterns and sequences already on the table before me.   

I loved playing with Daddy because he wasn’t afraid;  he’d ‘shoot the moon’ with his bid, and with a twinkle in his blue eyes and a belly-laugh, have a great time cleaning up the points in a hand or laughing it off it he lost - which he rarely did!  I have no memory of playing the wrong cards, which I am quite sure I did, only of the joy he seemed to get out of having me across the table,  my eyes locked on his, learning the game.   When he said, “Watch what falls”  I knew that even if I messed up with my play, he had enough points in his hand to cover us both.  

His words  and my own come back to me now, meditating on Mary and Jesus in this story, her eyes locked on Him while I examine my own frustration and fear in prayer.  “Four Word Prayer”  I wrote a few weeks ago - just tell God the problem. Step across the threshold.  “Watch what falls,”  Daddy said, meaning stand there like Mary, watch what falls,  and know that Jesus has enough in his hand to cover us both.