Ms. Anne Thrope served George Donigian a plate of choereg, a braided bread, and another cup of Armenian coffee.
“You’ll like the choereg. Mrs. Mugardichian made it. We have it when she feels like making it and this is special for Easter. While you eat, I have more questions about Three Prayers You’ll Want to Pray.
“You write about three prayers that seem traditional, though some might argue with what you call the Diplomat’s Prayer. In a way you remind me of Anne Lamott’s Help, Thanks, Wow, but your emphasis is different from her emphasis. What keeps you in that traditional mode?”
“Tradition is good–like this choereg and coffee. The recipes have been around for centuries–passed down through oral tradition–but the food is always new. We participate in a living tradition, something that stretches back thousands of years and yet, is constantly being reborn and growing into something deeper and wider. I think that we lose perspective when we try to lock in tradition to something that it may have been a hundred or a thousand years ago. Then we’re less about living tradition and more about protecting a moment frozen in time. I don’t think locking in the past is a helpful way to live in the present.”
“That’s a helpful answer. Throughout the book, you compare prayer and music, an unusual connection that seems to work. How did you see that relationship?”
“I fool around with several musical instruments–saxophone, piano, Armenian duduk and dumbek, and others. In music, we start with basics—scales—and grow from those basic building blocks. My basic model for life is jazz, and I wrote about that understanding when I developed and edited children’s curriculum resources. To play jazz, a person needs to know the melody, the chord structure and progression, and then be ready to improvise. That’s what we do whenever we teach. So it seemed natural to connect the practices of music and prayer and then to think about the three prayers in terms of musical genres.
“But you don’t need a musical background to understand the book. There’s nothing technical in the book. Music is a convenient way for me to continue a conversation about the practice of prayer. While I include different aspects of music, comparing one of the prayers to an all-encompassing symphony, I also offer a form of confessional.”
“Good. How about this: Why do you refer to Jesus as the Rabbi?”
“I want people to see the essential model of prayer taught by Jesus, and he begins most definitely as a teacher, a rabbi. We have many concepts about prayer that come from different sources. Some are helpful. Some simply cloud our connection with God. Jesus gave us a simple and lasting model of prayer. I want readers to think about the implications of that prayer so I spent a brief time exploring three phrases in it. What are the ramifications of ‘thy kingdom come, thy will be done’? People say those words all the time, but I wonder if we are paying attention.
“Have I answered all your questions?”
“So far, so good. I’ll get to other questions later. Enjoy the choereg and coffee.”