I have a confession to make....
I am not good at closing my eyes during prayer. I know that is something that should be amazingly easy to be good at, but I've still found some way to suck. I only have two moves. One of my moves is to do that thing we all did as little kids, where you press your hands against your eyes so hard you see little fireworks and dazzling colors inside your eyelids. The other is that I close them just enough to look holy but still keep them open. Why do I do this? I don't want to miss anything that's happening up on the stage.
Watching the people in charge of transforming the stage for the next portion of a service is one of my favorite parts of church. Like a hidden culture or long lost tribe, they materialize from the shadows, carrying guitars, moving drums, switching out sets. And then, like the Keebler Elves they return back to their lair, never to be seen again. They are elusive my friend, they are a secret and private people. But after years of studying them, I am finally ready to reveal what I have learned about what happens on the stage while your eyes are closed in prayer:
1. Musicians magically appear.
There are primarily three people groups that inhabit the shadows of a church stage. The stage hands, the pastors and the musicians. Of the three groups, I find the musicians to be the most entertaining to watch. It's fun to try to guess the songs they'll sing simply by observing who is coming out and what instruments are present. "Is that the angry girl singer? The one that I love but kind of sings like she might fight me in the parking lot?" "Ohhh, multiple guitars, that increases our chance of hearing 'Blessed Be The Name' by 37%." "Interesting, only one piano and one musician. Cue dramatic spotlight, it's serious, sad song time."
2. The pastor materializes from the crowd.
I don't care how many times I see it, every time a pastor walks on stage from the crowd I am surprised. I guess I sometimes think pastors are kept in secret rooms in the back somewhere or hyperbaric chambers during the worship. And then when the singing is over, they get a call on a red phone like old school Batman. I know that's dumb but when I see them walk out of the crowd, I always have an US Magazine moment, "Hey, the pastor is just like me. He sits in a seat, in an aisle, just like me. Yay!"
3. That table and chair appear. It's the little set of "sermon furniture" that the guy who once sold hymnals has been forced to sell to churches across the country now that praise songs are so big. If I could invest in those tables and chairs I would already be a Christian thousandaire, but nobody really knows where they came from. I always assume that the stage hands have like a Navy Seals training course they have to go through if they want to be one of the elite members of the team that is allowed to actually touch these pieces of furniture. Anyone can carry a microphone stand. You gotta work your way up to "that table and chair." That's the big leagues son.
4. Stage hands have animated conversations.
Sometimes a piece of equipment is missing. And you'll see an excited, completely silent conversation happen on stage. It's kind of like that old kid's show where two people say pieces of a word until they build a complete word. You'd see the silhouette of one person start a word and then the silhouette of another person finish it. "Ch", "air," "Chair." I like to write those conversations in my head and pretend that they are saying things like this:
Stage Hand 1: "Where are the drums?"
Stage Hand 2: "What drums?"
Stage Hand 1: "The drums we've had every Sunday for the last 14 months."
Stage Hand 2: "Oh those drums. We sold them."
Stage Hand 1: "What? Why?"
Stage Hand 2: "We needed to buy a new plexiglass fishbowl to keep the drummer in."
Stage Hand 1: "You sold the drums to buy a plastic wall for the drummer. That's ridiculous. What's he going to play now?"
Stage Hand 2: "The triangle. We're moving to an all triangle worship format. It will be very relevant. This culture is desperate for more triangle."
Stage Hand 1: "Please don't make a cowbell joke."
Stage Hand 2: "Too late. Cowbell!"
I know what you're thinking, all of those things sound pretty delightful but your church has a fixed stage. The pastor sits in a big chair, the organ is nailed down to the floor. Fear not, I love traditional churches too. I suggest you start moving stuff around on stage by yourself. Just bring an extra candle or a small framed photo of a waterfall or sunset (we love singing songs with those backgrounds). Then when everybody has their eyes closed praying, sneak quietly up on stage, do a few quick rearrangements and sit back down. I don't know your church personally but I don't think they'll mind