Good Prayers Using Bad Language

The following post on ‘good prayers using bad language’ came out of a situation where I had just written a letter to the mother of an old mate of mine. He and his entire family (including the mum) are from solid Aussie-Battler stock and—as the saying goes—’Don’t put up with bullshit and take no prisoners’. You could walk into their home any time of day or night and the air would be hazed blue and purple with a small number of R-rated adjectives that are always used in conversation in order to give moral support to exclamation marks just to so that everyone gets the point. On the richter scale of colourful-language-families, they would be about 9.

Anyway, here I was about to post this letter to her in which I had expressed my concern and good wishes ’cause she had just had half her lungs cut out due to cancer, and then I thought I might include some written prayers with the letter. I printed out the prayers, folded up the sheet of paper, put it in the envelope and then thought, ‘You’ve got to be joking! Talk about putting distance between a hurting woman and God! If she’s going to be allowed to speak in her dialect to God, they need colour.’ Someone once put it well when they said, ‘Pray as you can, not as you cannot.’

Good Prayers in Bad Language


When The Road Darkens

‘What do you fear, lady?’ Aragorn asked.

‘A cage,’ Éowyn said. ‘To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.’1

Coming up-hill from the big town, I drive along a street towards our house and pray and wonder if that family will be out and about: the ones people talk about and wish were not there, but who’s children come to our Kids Club. They don’t seem to be, and I almost drive past—and then there they are—skeletal and hard-looking: the dad with his month’s growth and eyes looking under siege, and the mum’s face saying, ‘I don’t care what happens, I will survive. And by the way don’t f— with me!’

I like it here. Just being here, listening to them on their front lawn as their their jokes and complaints and hopes and dreams flow freely. And I like the fact that this this lean-as-a-bean man with his stream of ‘three adjectives adjectives on an endless loop’ somehow make me think of what we have in common: a desire to fight for a home, children and happiness, even if it is muddied with pride and rage and hatred for the guy next door who has ‘apparently?’ bashed his wife. And there’s even something in his face that reminds me of the men I grew-up around in the bush: the deep-set eyes, the unshaven face and the rake of a body—well, they would either be rakes or loaded up with great bloated bellies.

As we stand there and talk about that fact that Ford has taken out the big race (I avoid mentioning that Holden took the next five places), a little three-legged dog wanders across the lawn and I feel lucky: lucky to once again be in a place where the great Logos is present and is yet again bringing love, healing and grace. Yes, the little ones who had so loved coming to the club—the girl even showing up earlier than anyone—are nowhere to be seen, and have not been coming for months. But here we are, the mother telling the dad to mind his swearing and all of us feeling—however faintly—that this place where we we stand is somehow sacred by the very fact that it has a home and a family that came out of the heart of God.

On the way to my own home, just up the hill, I wonder what has become of those two little children. Have they been classified as ‘in danger’ and removed from their parents to be put ‘somewhere safer’? Are they with a relative? Then I think about the kind of world they are growing up in and my mind drifts to a cracked-record voice that says, ‘If it can’t be measured it doesn’t exist.’2 And another voice of the same kind, which asserts that evolution has endowed us with ‘Genes that make us believe in concepts like the soul … One day such irrational tendencies might be removed by adjusting the relevant brain circuitry.’ In the meantime, the author offers us this encouragement, ‘We will have to resign ourselves to the unpalatable fact that we are nothing more than machines.’3 Somehow I feel as if I’m hearing a voice I met long ago in high school, which admitted quite shamelessly to seeking a ‘special odour of corruption, which I hope floats over my stories.’4 As a sixteen year old boy at the time my thought was, ‘What else have you got, we all know that one.’

Once again, I remember why I have laid aside so much else of what I could have given my time to, and instead, have poured years into reading and thinking and writing, and what sometimes seemed like ‘wasted conversations’ on footpaths, uncertain prayers in the middle of the night and even rage- filled arguments with God. Ironically, I have that fortunate feeling again, feeling lucky to have been led to this place where I can take the fight right down to the wire (even if I fail), for it has been truly said,“Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.”

1. Tolkien JRR. The Return of the King

2. A one word summary of the discredited philosophy—but still used by Dawkins et. al.—of Logical Postivism

3. Woolfson, An Intelligent Person’s Guide To Genetics. Quoted by Pearcey N. in Saving Leonardo pp. 92, 93

4 James Joyce and The Revolution of the Word: Colin McCabe p.29 McMillan 1978

5. “Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.” Tolkien JRR. The Two Towers

The Truck and The Bullet



It’s late at night and the distant sound of a truck pushing along out there on the hill calls to mind a slow bullet cutting its way through hard molecules of air after an explosion inside a rifle has spat it out via a steel pipe to do whatever grim work it has been sent to do. The bullet and the truck live in separate universes when it comes to speed but being sent and doing work are two things they have in common and—interestingly—those were also two of Jesus’ favourite self-describing words as recorded in the gospels.

We haven’t lived for very long on this big ridge but you know you’re no longer on the flat country when you can feel the breezes that come across the valley at night and see the lights of the ‘city’ down there with it’s highways, railway lines and it’s quiet old river hiding in the belly. And that city is not just ‘down there’, it’s ‘up here’ too in our little cul-de-sac of bitumen, lawns, broken dreams, bits and pieces of happiness and—to be sure—many untold stories of sweet love and grace.

And even as I sit here and write, I find myself sighing and praying for a guy across the road who’s yelling at a voice in his head and I think about the fact that, like the bullet and the truck, we have also been sent to this particular place to do the work of that mysterious Paraclete (the great Comforter and friend), which sometimes will be grim and sometimes a sheer joy and full of laughter. It actually says somewhere that the Paraclete ‘prays even now with sighs too deep for words’ and I’m sure he’s praying along with me for my old mate over the road, for (according to Jesus) the Paraclete was also sent to do work.

Men’s Night

Men’s Night

The five of us sit on worn lounge chairs that have been upholstered with heavily textured cloth of the kind which catches on your clothes when you try to move. Overhead are three big neon lights and—as a kind of centre-piece between our lounges—is a coffee table, which is also serving as a tea-towel rack, a resting place for bare feet, and a bench for upturned books and dirty coffee cups.

Three of the guys are almost falling on top of each other with curiosity and laughter as they look at some new gadgetry on a phone. Another one’s buried in cyberspace and I’ve just been informed that no one’s made any plans. Excellent! And! to top it all off, we’re about to enjoy a hearty feed of steak, which is not far away on the table—but we’re politely waiting for the one laggart who’s supposedly on his way to join us.

And here comes the late arrival! We say grace and the night begins: men’s night that is, at the Orange Cornerstone team-house. Just what the doctor ordered.