As I was pondering this column and also reflecting on a quick Skype conversation I had with my daughter, Philip Yancey’s book, “Finding God in Unexpected Places,” found me. Chapter 38’s title, “Don’t Forget to Laugh,” especially caught my attention.

The book has been on my shelf for several years now (I have the 1995 version), but in a moment of diversion I picked it up and started thumbing through it.

I came upon a passage about the connection between work, prayer and laughter, which provided more food for thought as I spend this year learning as much as I can about prayer and disciplining myself to live a life of prayer.

Yancey references poet W.H. Auden‘s premise that the human species is distinct from other animals in at least three ways. We are the only ones who work, laugh and pray, Auden said.

Christians value their work ethic so highly, wrote Yancey, that “we let it gobble everything in sight… Work has become for Christians the only sanctioned addiction.”

It’s tempting to turn prayer into another form of work, he continued, “which may explain why prayers in most churches consist mostly of intercession. We bring God our requests in the form of wish lists, and all too rarely do we get around to listening.”

But prayer, when viewed in some biblical texts, like the Psalms, seems less like a chore and more like a never-ending dialogue; less like a shopping list and more like a conversation one might hear in a barber shop, Yancey suggested.

Which of the two describes your prayers?

As for laughter, Yancey said Christians cannot afford to forget how to laugh at ourselves.

“It occurs to me, in fact, that laughter has much in common with prayer. In both acts, we stand on equal ground, freely acknowledging ourselves as fallen creatures. We take ourselves less seriously. We think of our creatureliness. Work divides and ranks; laughter and prayer unite.”

I started off the day taking inventory of the work that awaits me. Thoughts of current depressing news events kept trying to creep into the forefront of my thinking.

My daughter’s Skype message interrupted the writing and researching I was doing, and I’m glad. It refocused my thoughts and set me on a different course. In response to a comment I made, my daughter replied, “lol. ur funny.” And without much thought I responded, “Funny is a good thing in an all-too-serious world.”

So my checklist for the week, which promises to be a busy one, is:

· Work smarter and do everything to the glory of God.

· Listen as much or more than I talk when I pray.

· Laugh more and don’t take myself too seriously.

· Show God’s love no matter how I feel.

Yvonne Shinhoster Lamb is president of the District of Columbia Baptist Convention. She blogs at Soul Rhythms, where this column first appeared.

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