Prayer: Because sometimes you need to be dog-whispered
Back when we had cable, I used to be a big fan of the Dog Whisperer show. I don’t even have a dog, but it was fascinating to see how Cesar Millan could take all these bad dogs and turn them into happy, obedient pets. One of his most common techniques is to pinch a dog quickly on the side of its neck while making a sound that is hard to convey in writing, but goes something like, PRSSSSCHT!!!
By mimicking the corrective nip that the top dog in a pack might use to keep his subordinate canines in line, Millan gets the dog’s attention and snaps him out of whatever he might have been fixating on. It’s amazing how well it works. In one of the last episodes I saw, this one dog had a problem with obsessing about rocks. He would run up to one, growl at it, bite it, run around it, bite it some more, and this could go on for almost an hour. Normally he was pretty good about listening to his owner, but when he’d come across a rock, it was all over. You could practically hear the dog thinking, “NO SHUT UP DON’T TALK TO ME I’VE GOT TO GET THIS ROCK! ROCK! IT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE WORLD! ROCK! ROCK! ROCK!” And then Millan would dog-whisper him with that PRSSSSCHT!!! thing, and he’d break out of it and look up at his master like, “Oh, hey, sorry about that! I guess that rock isn’t that important after all.”
I hate to admit this, but the dog kind of reminds me of me.
Whenever I’m good about sticking to regular prayer times, it breaks me out of whatever I’m fixating on. In fact, I usually don’t notice that I am fixating on anything until I stop what I’m doing and focus on God. I’ll be walking around, just like the dog, saying, “NO SHUT UP DON’T TALK TO ME I’VE GOT TO GET THIS ROCK! ROCK! IT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE WORLD! ROCK! ROCK! ROCK!” Just replace “rock” with some item from my to-do list, and that’s me.
Then the hard stop of prayer time comes along, and it’s like Cesar Millan’s PRSSSSCHT!!!
When prayer time first approaches, I shrink away, convinced that I simply must keep obsessing about whatever it is that has captured my attention at the moment. But when I actually enter into silence, both internal and external, it’s such a drastic change from my normal mode of living that it startles me into a new frame of mind. Contemplating the eternal instead of fixating on the temporal requires such a huge shift of mental gears that it breaks me out of whatever short-sighted rut I’d been in. Like the dumb dog, I finally stop chewing on my silly worries of the moment, and pay attention to what my Master is trying to tell me.