When I first married Stephen, I used to ask him to pray for us. Looking back, I see now how uncomfortable that was for him. Although he claimed to be a Christian and postured in our church, he was as disconnected from God as he was from himself and me. His prayers came out sounding speechy, formal and pompous. They offered me no comfort, and they probably offered him no comfort either, other than the hollow pleasure of hearing himself orate.
Israel, on the other hand, prays as naturally as he breathes. His prayers pour out of him like music, or water tumbling over smooth stones, in Spanish. He tells me, “Okay, now I gonna’ pray for us.” And he begins, “Señor...gracias,Señor... ” and even though my Español is hardly fluent, I understand every word, or nearly every word. I feel like when he opens his mouth to pray, he is plugged into God with a heavy duty, three-prong power cord, and the energy is both pouring out of him and into him, humming and filling us both with peace.
Last night, Israel said, “God used to tell me the future. But I used drugs and fawk too many women, so He take the gift from me.” Israel makes these kinds of pronouncements all the time in between his straight-faced, but hysterical takes on Mexican culture, such as, “I am not like Mexican men. I am Dominican. I am clean. Mexican men, they smell like a mohng-key.”
As much of an outlaw as Israel can be at times, I believe he and God are on the same wavelength. And that’s what I love about God. He uses the unexpected people - the naifs, the outsiders, the unpracticed, the uncredentialed – to be His conduit and His Voice. Israel prays without pretense or consciousness of himself, and I believe him when he says the Lord is going to deliver us.