God has me thinking a lot about what it means to go deeper in my relationship with Him. I’ve been blogging about my fears, about worship , about serving. Today, I’d like to take a gut-level honest approach to prayer.
To be very honest:
- I am a confident prayer when I know people are listening
- I pray really well when I’m in the midst of a crisis
- There is nothing I want more than better communication with my heavenly Father (both ways)
Perhaps you can tell from the way I worded the list above that I’m not the world’s mightiest prayer warrior.
First, I have a big hang-up when it comes to praying out loud; in front of people. When someone else is listening, I go into a whole different mode. I’m thinking about who’s listening, what they may be going through, how I can carefully arrange my words to avoid offending or embarassing them or someone they know, how I can encourage with my words and bring blessing on them, yet communicate with God in such a way that will properly bless and praise Him. Phew – that’s a lot of work.
Don’t get me wrong – I can do it. I’ve been a Christian for a good number of years and I’ve heard a good number of prayers. I’ve got my “prayer language” down just right. I have plenty of cliches and spiritual-sounding phrases to impress every skeptic in the group. In my list, I mentioned that I’m confident when it comes to praying out loud. But, to be honest, it feels fake most of the time. Not that I’m trying to be something or someone other than what I am, nor am I trying to manipulate or impress. Perhaps it’s because I’m trying so hard to “cover all the bases” and being careful not to leave anyone or anything out. By the time I’m finished, and look up – I frequently have this feeling that I was talking only to those physically in the room. And – what’s the point of all that?
It’s quite a different story when I pray alone. I can be honest, avoiding formulas or senseless ritual when it’s just the Father and me. Especially when I’m going through difficult times. I mentioned second in my list that I pray really well in the midst of crisis situations. Well, I’ve had my share of crisis, and I must testify that God has never let me down. He’s always been there to hold me up and hear my cries. He is my strong tower and my fortress. He is my deliverer and my comfort and my strength in the storm.
So, what about when everything’s going pretty well? Why do I not have the same zeal and passion? Why is it I can go for days without really praying?
I was curious, so I put in “what is prayer” into my favorite search engine. I got hundreds of thousands of possible links. I clicked on a few of them with titles like “How to get into the habit of prayer” and “daily prayer time”. I know there must be something useful out there, but what I found left me with a bad taste in my mouth. You see, I’ve never been one for legalistic rituals or 3-step formulas for things like prayer.
It seems so pathetic to have to set aside 15 or 30 minutes each morning in a prayer closet, sitting in a certain position, palms up, praise music on the iPod, incense on the dresser. Is it just me? What if Jesus were my roommate? Would I need to schedule a time each day for us to talk? Woud I need to meet Him at a certain place and sit in a certain position and make sure there were no distractions? Would we meet in the library? No, can’t talk in there. What about Starbucks? No, can’t hear in there.
The articles I started reading all had to do with this thing called “discipline.” Is that it? Am I so undisciplined that the thought of such a daily ritual leaves me disgusted?
No – I want to talk to my Abba Father, my Daddy, just as if He were here with me: in the car, in the restaurant, in the room as I shut my eyes at night. I don’t want 3-step formulas or rituals to get in the way. I want to praise Him and tell Him what He means to me and thank Him for all He’s done. I want to lift my daughters up to Him and ask for Him to bless their day and protect them from the enemy. I want to tell Him exactly what’s on my mind and I want to stop and listen for His still, small voice.
So – why don’t I?
As I said on my list – it’s the thing I want the most.
So – ???
The only thing that comes to my mind is Paul’s amazing, comforting passage in Romans chapter 7. He writes about how the things he wants to do the most, he doesn’t do – and the things he doesn’t want to do, he ends up doing.
I’m starting to see that, like any spiritual discipline (i.e. Bible reading, prayer, giving, serving, etc.) we are handicapped in several aspects. One is our human nature – our flesh is always trying to die. But we are not our flesh – what we are is spirit. Our flesh is just what carries us around on this earth.
And, two is our sworn enemy. The Bible calls satan a roaring lion roaming the earth seeking whom he may devour. Fears, doubts, temptations, distractions – these are some of his favorite tools to keep us from going deeper with God.
Our best defense?
I guess the point for me today, after reviewing all this stream of consciousness is:
Do whatever it takes.
Perhaps I need a ritual. Perhaps I’m not strong enough on my own – not disciplined enough to talk/listen to God at all hours of the day. Perhaps I need accountability and a plan to build prayer into a habit.
I mean, what’s worse – praying out of compulsion to follow a ritual or not praying at all?
Lord, You know my heart. I want to know You more. I want to always be listening for your voice. I never want to neglect talking with You. But, just as I wouldn’t want my own children to have to schedule a certain time, wear certain clothes, sit in a certain position, say certain things – I don’t want that to be how we communicate. I need You in my life each and every second. I want my focus to always be You. I want to turn to You immediately if there’s a problem and I want to know You’re right there. As with anything, Lord, if You don’t help me with this, it’s over. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit and prick my conscious, Lord, each time I am distracted. Help me to look at my own world through the lenses of prayer. Help me to hear through the earbuds of prayer. Thank You, Lord – for Your grace and how You also want more than anything else to better communication with me.