Those who know me well know that “The West Wing” is one of my favorite TV series of all time. In this short clip, the president (Martin Sheen) has just finished the funeral of his longtime personal secretary who was killed in a car accident. This, along with some other stressful events leads him into this rant against God.
I certainly don’t endorse the language, but I think there is something very beautiful about this scene. I think it captures a man of faith who in his pain expresses clearly what is on his heart. If prayer is conversation with God, then I think this expresses it well. Prayer isn’t always the recitation of memorized prayers, it is also speaking directly from the heart, when things are going great in our lives and also when we are in the midst of bitter darkness!
We have all had moments in our lives (or know of others who have) where we (or they) have experienced such tremendous pain, loss or grief that we (they) feel similar to the way that Martin Sheen does in this scene. Its not wrong that he yells at God, it would be wrong if he walked away from him forever.
Recently, Pope Francis gave a homily in which he was talking about Moses’ face to face conversation with God in which he explained that, Moses’ prayer was a real struggle with God. A struggle on the part of the leader of a people to save his people. The Pope went on to express how when Moses prayed, he did so freely, courageously and with insistence, stating that prayer ought to be a “negotiation with God” to which we bring our “arguments.
“Prayer changes our heart. It makes us understand better how our God is. But, for this it is important to speak with the Lord, not with empty words – Jesus says ‘As the pagans do. No, speak with reality,” the Pope insisted, encouraging those present to say in prayer “’But, look, Lord, I have this problem, in my family, with my son, with this or that…What can be done? But look, you can’t leave me like this!’” “This is prayer!”
Drawing attention to how the scripture passaged describes Moses as speaking to God “face to face, like a friend,” the pope observed “This is how prayer should be: free, insistent, with debate, and should also scold the Lord a little: “But, you promised me this, and you haven’t done it.” “Open the heart to this prayer,” Francis said.
Perhaps this may seem a bit odd to some, but I think the importance of speaking to our Lord in this sort of “face to face” way, speaking truly from the heart, will certainly bring us closer to Him, and quite possibly, bring some real healing to those in pain.