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story about two friends and a prayer


Two friends often shared their lunch together. One often insisted that grace be said before the meal, which went like this: O Lord, thank you for this bounty before us and we thank Thee that You are our God.

The other friend never objected to the prayer, but he remained silent during its recitation. This went on for some time, until one day he asked, "Why thank God for being our God?"

The praying friend replied, "Well, because. There are many false gods, worshipped by others. I pray to the one True God, creator of the universe; He that is omnipotent and omniscient, epitome of justice and mercy. I am thankful that He is our God and that I'm not worshipping somebody else's false god."

The other friend suggested, "Your God is omniscient, so it follows that He knows that you are addressing Him. He knows your willingness and desire to pray to Him. I think the last part of the prayer is superfluous. There's an elegance in not saying. Next time your recite it, skip saying that last part and think it. Think the meaning of it. Try to unravel the meaning of those words in their fullest. We cannot possibly understand it in a few minutes discussion here, but we can understand it in our silence.

The next day, the friend recited the modified prayer before their lunch: O Lord, thank you for this bounty before us. Silence followed. This went on for a while. The first few days were awkward, but he learned that when hunger called, that is when the silence should end. However, as the days passed the length of silence grew. Each day, his understanding of the statement grew. Many days latter, during the silence. He began to weep."

"Why the tears?" the friend of silence asked.

"Because. He is our God. He is everybody's God, whether we realize it or not. Followers of other religions may not know it, but they're worshipping Him. To Him all virtue is ascribed. If they sincerely worship the creator that is all powerful, all knowing, just, and merciful, then they are worshipping Him. God is merciful. I cannot believe that he would punish them for ignorance that is of no fault of their own. If those other gods actually exist, God will surely destroy them for leading others astray."

A few days passed and the friend of silence said, "I think the last part of the prayer is unnecessary. We come here every day and thank Him for the meal. Well of course, we're thanking Him for the meal. The food is before us. The context needs no explanation to a wise and omniscient God. Why not just address God and lead into silence where we might be mindful of the full extent of His bounty?"

The next day, the friend simply said, "O Lord" and began their meditative silence. Immediately his understanding grew. On some days, he varied his invocation, stretching it over a long exhaled breath or through singing. Some time later, he began weeping again. "Why the tears?' the friend of silence asked.

Because the bounty of God is everywhere. I am humbled and saddened and overwhelmed and joyful and many other feelings all at the same time. To think I thanked God for the food for so many years. I am almost ashamed that I did not thank Him for everything else. My wife. My kids. My job. My life. Everything. Even this park bench on which we sit. Somebody made this so we could sit on it, somebody who probably worships God. Even you, your friendship."

The next day, the friend came to their usual place and found the friend of silence there, already in silence. Rather than invoke God, he joined in silence and understood. Time passed where the meal was opened with solemn silence as they pondered the simple meaning of that invocation. Eventually, the friend began to weep again. "It's too much. I am so humbled. I cannot contain these feelings but I cannot express it either. It is beyond words. To think I could explain this would be a form of sacrilege," and he wept and wept the most cleansing tears of joy. The friend of silence hugged and consoled his friend, in silence as he listened to the ramblings and mutterings wrapped in the futile hope of trying to express all that he felt and thought.

The next day, the two met for lunch. As the friend prepared himself for silence, the other friend, the friend of silence recited, "O Lord, thank you for this bounty before us and we thank Thee that you are our God."