Back in the "olden days," as my boys used to call them, you only got a couple, or maybe three channels on your television set—usually one each of the Big Three national networks back then. And none of this hour long set up and downloading and hooking up to satellite dishes or cables. You bought the thing, you took it home, you plugged it in, turned it on, and, voila! you could watch TV.
One more thing you had to do was unfold the antenna, usually two metal rods, telescoped inside themselves. You pulled out each rod to the desired length, then moved them around until the picture cleared up. They usually wound up in some sort of V, which accounts for the name you might have heard your parents or grandparents use, "rabbit ears." Depending upon how far away you were from the station, or in which direction it lay, your antenna might look more like an L than a V, or one side might be much shorter than the other. Once you figured it out, you just remembered that ABC was a perfect V, CBS was an L that looked like nine o'clock, and NBC was an almost perfect straight line—or whatever configuration yours needed to get each channel.
Everywhere we lived we got all three channels, but one was always a little snowy. Sometimes it had ghost images. Sometimes the horizontal and vertical holds wouldn't "hold." In fact, we had one that we had to whack on the top to get the vertical hold to work. And here is where the tin foil comes in. Sometimes you had to take a square of aluminum foil (I have no idea why we all called it "tin foil") and wrap it around one arm of the antenna, creating a shiny silver flag on one end. Sometimes it took one on each arm of the antenna. And usually, when the person putting it on walked up to the TV, the picture improved so dramatically that we all shouted, "Stop! Don't move!" But of course, we couldn't expect anyone to stand perfectly still for the entire program, especially if his arms were halfway up ready to wrap the foil flag in place, and most especially if he couldn't watch the show himself during that time.
I am sure that sounds incredibly primitive to many of you younger folks. I am told that the reason the foil flags worked was that they increased the bandwidth of the antenna and the aperture so you could receive more of the incoming radiation. Sounds like so much gobbledy-gook to me, but it did work. Which leads us to today's lesson.
Upon occasion, some have asked me if saying a prayer silently really counts. If you will check out the 57th and 59th psalms you will see that they are described as "Maskils," and were prayed when David was hiding from Saul in a cave. While most of those Hebrew designations for specific psalms are unknown, some scholars will make what amounts to "educated guesses." C. H. Bullock suggests that "maskil" might refer to "silent prayers." Most of the time Jews prayed aloud—it was the custom. But at least once, when David was hiding in the back of a cave, Saul was sleeping in the front of the same cave. Praying aloud might have defeated its purpose!
When we try to lay restrictions upon prayers, our stance, their wording, and their occasion, I wonder if we aren't being a little like people trying to put tin foil on antennas. We keep thinking we can make the reception better. God doesn't need tin foil flags on your prayers to hear them. His end of the matter works just fine. It's more a matter of what you need on your end--a receptive soul, a humble spirit, a penitent heart. It might come at a time when praying aloud would be inappropriate or simply impossible. You don't have to worry. He can hear those prayers just fine. No snow. No ghost images. No problems with vertical holds or horizontal holds. Just a crystal clear picture of a Father who loves you and a Lord who died for you, two Beings who want to hear from you every chance they get. If David can pray silently, crouched in the back of a dark, dank cave, trying his best to breathe quietly and stay absolutely still, it seems to me that God is not nearly as picky as some of my brethren are.
Just pray, folks, silently or aloud, standing or lying, in whatever words your heart needs to say. I guarantee you won't need a box of tin foil to be heard.
And it shall be said, “Build up, build up, prepare the way, remove every obstruction from my people's way.” For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite (Isa 57:14-15).