It might have been the whole Christian upbringing thing, but I feel like even without the prod in a God direction I’d have found my way there eventually. Prayer has always been something I’ve been drawn to. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately… I guess when your entire faith exists in a constant state of flux, the main method of communicating with your chosen deity tends to do the same.
When I was a lad, prayer was a mandated activity. You did it because it made your parents happy. As I grew into the church, you did it because it got you… pew cred? (Whatever the exact opposite of “street cred” would be called.) Eventually, someone told you that Christianity isn’t about religion, it’s about a relationship… And that was when the bottom dropped out. See, prayer as a habit, I was good with. I could say some magic words and suddenly the driving force behind the entire universe was happy with me. But now in the context of a relationship, everything changed… and… I’m not totally sure it was all for the better.
Stick with me.
I was taught that communication with God is instantaneous. You start talking in a vaguely God-pointed direction, and he’s listening. And yet, as anyone who has ever tried to live a Christian life knows… That crap is hard to pull off on a consistent basis. Back when Christianity was a religion, nobody got hurt. If I didn’t pray, I was only shooting myself in the foot. Now, under this notion of Christianity as a relationship, anytime I failed to “pray without ceasing”, I had to deal with the guilt of knowing that God was unhappy or upset at me. Because… If this is a relationship, that’s how he must feel, right? How do you feel when someone who you think of as a friend just forgets to talk to you for weeks at a time?
But… What if we’re anthropomorphizing God too much? Yeah… It is a relationship, but it’s not a relationship with another human. It’s a relationship with a God who knows and adores the minutiae of our lives. It’s a God that, if we believe what we say, loves us beyond all known limits. I don’t think God minds if we fall asleep when we’re saying our prayers. I don’t think he gets upset if we forget to pray for a few days.
What is prayer, anyway? It’s communication. That’s all it is. Do you think the God that knows the exact path of synapses a thought follows through our brain needs us to communicate solely through words?
Now… hear me. I’m not saying that there’s no point to praying out loud. I’m not saying that chronic not-praying isn’t a problem… I’m just saying, that you need to be willing to show yourself as much Grace regarding these questions as God does. And to that end… if we’re really doing it right, these issues should be taking care of themselves as we’ll find ourselves wanting to spend time with God. But who says it has to be through what we think of as prayer?
I guess I’ve been thinking about prayer a lot lately because God has been showing up in my life in some pretty big ways. I’ve long since learned giving details about the happenings at work is a tricky endeavor because things take so long, but it looks like my position as videographer might be happening sooner rather than later. Leah has found herself in the midst of a whole new season of life as she nannies children in the day and then instructs others on painting at night. And, I guess the biggest news…
I’M NOT A PARENT ANYMORE! *cue balloons falling from the ceiling and thunderous applause*
I’ll admit, that was a terrifying week… But, as I stated in my last colorfully titled post, God’s coolest super power is the ability to make bad things work together for good… And that’s exactly what he’s done here. In the course of a single (albeit incredibly intense) week, God has begun healing the wounds our family has suffered and seems to be restoring us to a place that goes well beyond where we were before any of this stuff went down.
Would any of this stuff be happening if we hadn’t been praying? Does God need our words or our intentions? Why does petitioning God work? It’s a mystery.
I want to leave you with a quote that was read at Church this morning from Mike Yaconelli:
I have always been terrible at praying.
My mind wanders.
I fall asleep.
I don’t pray enough.
I don’t understand what prayer is
Or what prayer does.
If prayer were school…
I would flunk praying.
But prayer isn’t school.
It is mystery.
Maybe the mystery is…
Jesus loves terrible prayers.
When I can’t think of anything to say, He says what I can’t say.
When I talk too much, He cherishes my too-many words.
When I fall asleep, He holds me in his lap and caresses my weary soul.
When I am overwhelmed with guilt at my inconsistent, inadequate praying
He whispers, “Your name is always on my lips.”
I am filled with gratitude, my soul overflows with thankfulness and I…
I…find myself saying over and over again, “Thank You.”
Praying the mystery.