Written by Steven Liechty
Martin B. Copenhaver
"Rejoice always. Pray Continually." - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17
In the Academy-award winning movie, Marty, Ernest Borgnine plays a homely butcher who lives in Brooklyn. Marty is in his late thirties and lives with his mother. He spends Saturday nights hanging around with his friend Angie.
Marty is not comfortable around women because, in his own words, he is just "a fat, ugly man." So he usually clams up around women.
One night Marty goes with Angie to the Stardust Ballroom and he is offered five dollars by a stranger to escort home the man's unattractive blind date. Angie assumes Marty will turn down the offer, describing the woman as "a real dog." But Marty turns down the money and approaches the woman. The two dance a bit, then Marty walks her to the bus stop.
When they reach the bus stop, Marty and the woman keep on going because they are lost in conversation. The woman listens attentively and with appreciation. Sensing this, Marty is a flood of words. He talks about his work, his family, his worries, his hopes—thoughts he has never expressed and some he has expressed but which have never been fully heard.
Occasionally, Marty interrupts himself: "Gee, I just can't stop talkin'. I'm going to let you talk now." Then the woman says something that triggers a new thought in Marty, and he is talking again. The woman smiles until Marty stops himself again. "Gee, there I go again! I just can't stop talkin'. What is this?"
What is this, Marty? It is the easy flow of conversation with someone who accepts you just as you are.
And that is what prayer can be.
God, because you accept me just as I am, I know you accept my prayers just as they are.
Martin B. Copenhaver is the President of Andover Newton Theological School, Newton Centre, Massachusetts. He is the author of several books, including the forthcoming Jesus is the Question: The 307 Questions Jesus Asked and the 3 He Answered.