We were a frugal family—we had to be. That TV still worked, but it had to be just so in order to work. In those days televisions had dials, one for the channel, and one for the volume, which also worked the on/off function. Our channel knob had gotten old and would not always stay in the slot for each channel when you turned it. So my daddy whittled a piece of wood about three inches long that you had to wedge between the protruding flat plastic of the channel knob that helped you push it around the dial and the overhang from the television cabinet above it. Otherwise, the knob slipped back out of the channel groove and all you got was snow. We assume the thief either couldn’t figure out our homemade remedy or he thought it was too much trouble. Whatever, we still had a TV to watch that night after the police left.
I have had to deal with things like that all my life. If you can get it to work somehow, why buy a new one? It is a little embarrassing though to have to tell your overnight guests to count to three when they flush the toilet before letting the lever go.
Maybe that is why I get a little peeved when I hear people make prayer such a process. Before they are finished you need a manual to tell you how to start it, how to close, what words you can and cannot say, who to aim it to, what you can and cannot ask for, and when you can and cannot do it. We get just like the rabbis who, after reading in the Psalms that David meditated “in the night watches” (Psa 63:6), instead of understanding the meaning--that David meditated all the time, even in the middle of the night--spent four or five pages of the Mishna arguing about how many night watches there were so they could be sure to meditate exactly that many times.
Prayer should never be something that must be done “just so” to make certain it will work. The Hebrew writer said Christ sacrificed himself so we could approach God “with boldness,” not scared to death we would do it the wrong way. When? “In time of need,” Heb 4:16. Usually when I need something badly the last thing I want to do is look in the owner’s manual and read the directions. I want something that works even when my mind is in turmoil and I can’t think straight. And the Lord understands that because he, the Hebrew writer also tells us, suffered exactly the way we do, “in all points.”
Take advantage of the great gift that God has given us, the right to talk with him any time, to ask for anything, to pour out our hearts when the need arises. Certainly we approach God with reverence, but checking off a list of rules is hardly reverence. It is making the Divine gift a burden. Surely that is about as sacrilegious as you can get.
For the LORD builds up Zion; he appears in his glory; he regards the prayer of the destitute and does not despise their prayer. Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the LORD: that he looked down from his holy height; from heaven the LORD looked at the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners, to set free those who were doomed to die, that they may declare in Zion the name of the LORD, and in Jerusalem his praise, Psalm 102:16-21.