My wife grew up in the suburbs. I grew up in the country. That means that every once in a while, when I casually mention a detail of my childhood, she’ll give me that “what planet are you from?” look.
She never got her water from a cistern, never had to put underpinning on her trailer to keep her pipes from freezing and never ever got to discover the magic of the party line. What’s that, you say? You don’t know about the party line either? You see, this is what I’m talking about. City slickers.
If you’re anything like my wife, you probably think the party line is either a political term or a dance you do at wedding receptions, like the conga or the electric slide, but it was neither of those.
Back in the day, in rural areas like mine, you had three choices when it came to telephone service. Some people were too poor to afford a phone at all. At the other end of the economic ladder, you had the wealthy fat cats who had what we called a private line. Everyone else was on the party line. That simply meant that you shared a phone line with other people.
Imagine going to make a phone call, picking up the handset and discovering someone else already in the middle of a conversation. At this point you either had to hang up and try again later, clear your throat until they took the hint or stay quiet and eavesdrop. Hey, don’t judge us party liners for eavesdropping. It’s what we had to do before we had Facebook and Twitter.
Some of you reading this remember the party line days all too well. You remember the frustration of wanting to make a call but not having a free line. The rest of you think it sounds like we were one step away from stringing together tin cans and wire. If only we had been that lucky. At least then we could have made a phone call whenever we’d wanted.
The whole party line conversation with my wife reminded me of how some people view prayer. On one extreme you have the people who never pray at all because either they don’t know how to pray or think they’re not worthy enough to talk to God. These are like the people I grew up with who couldn’t afford a phone. They had no access at all.
At the other end of the spectrum are the religious elite, the professional Christians, either ministers, priests or those people who, at least from the outside, look like super saints, compared to the rest of us. They seem to have a private prayer line straight to heaven.
Then there’s the rest of us stuck on the party line. We’re okay with having someone pray for us or doing the group prayer thing as long as someone else is doing the talking. We don’t really know the right words, and any time we have tried to pray out loud with others, we may have been interrupted, felt embarrassed or had an otherwise frustrating experience trying to have a conversation with God. So we settle for being prayer eavesdroppers, letting the spiritual chatterboxes do the praying on our behalf.
The great news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Every person on the planet has a direct line to God. He made us to be His kids and to have easy access to His presence.
The Bible says to pray continually. That simply means to have a running conversation with God every second of your day. You don’t need a super saint to pray for you. You don’t need magic, holy words. You don’t need to wait until you’re “worthy” or after you’ve cleaned up your life.
God can handle that part for you.
You just talk. Honestly, normally talk. Sure, God deserves respect, but that doesn’t mean He doesn’t want to just hang out with you and hear what’s on your heart.
If you find this hard to believe, consider what I learned about Martin Cooper this week. Cooper was the Motorola general manager who made the world’s first public cell phone call on April 3rd, 1973. Crazy, right? 1973! That means all of those years my family was on the party line, the technology actually existed to enjoy the freedom and instant access we now experience with cell phones.
But who knew such a thing was possible? We didn’t know what we were missing. The same is true for prayer. You’ll never know the freedom and instant access that God is offering until you get it in your hands and try it for yourself.