When I was a youth, our church had prayer meetings. There was no sermon, no special guest preacher, not even a well-trained musician. But, this was not what drew us. We did not receive text message or email reminders. But, there was no need.
“Prayer is a conversation, a ‘little talk with Jesus.’ Anyone can pray and everyone should pray.” While no relationship can survive without communication, we talk about prayer as if it is always simple and easy. We suggest that anyone can do it and at any time.
“Let us pray” is not a call for sad eyes and frowning faces, shuffling feet or sweaty palms. Entering the presence of God with the thought, “How am I going to explain this?” is not the aim. Prayer should not be treated as merely a confessional for the wrongs we’ve done and filled with apologies for not being God’s “little angels.”
French novelist Gustave Flaubert said, “The art of writing is discovering what you believe.” Writing, then, can be an exploration of one’s faith as I have found a keyboard and screen, paper and pen to be great conversation partners. If you want an answer for why I write—and I suspect the reason for many others—it is this.
Why is it so hard for us to “have a little talk with Jesus”? Why can’t we find the words to say? No mouthful here. For some of us, it can be downright awkward. Where do we begin? How do we address God? What do we say to the God who knows our thoughts before we are even introduced to them (Psalm 139:2)?
Though being asked to talk to someone is not a complicated invitation, prayer is not your average conversation. Talking to God, who is well-acquainted with our thoughts before they are even introduced to us, can be intimidating (Psalm 94.11).
Do we really believe that God hears us when we pray? If so, then why do we say the same thing over and over again? “God is great. God is good. Let us thank God for our food. Amen.” Fourteen words. Sixty-six characters shy of the 140-character limit for a tweet.
These days, prayer is often seen as insignificant. We place it on our programs as a kind gesture, a pleasantry extended out of respect for our Elder God. It is a routine remark given—though not out of necessity.
“Give us, this day, our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). It is a prayer answered when we sit at a table for a meal—unless we are on a diet and have given up carbohydrates.
After more than ten years in ordained ministry, I have found that we do more talking about prayer than actually talking to God. To be sure, we know that we should pray….
I have one speed: fast. If it were possible, I would go faster. As a workaholic (the first step is admission), it is hard for me to feel a sense a meaning without being busy.
My friend was dying. When we met, she told me that she had cancer. Though, right now, I can’t recall why that was a part of our first conversation.
Most persons would agree that we are busier than ever. We work from home, participate in a conference call while in the car, and think about work at the dinner table. Calendars are crammed to capacity so now we borrow from Sunday to make the weekends meet.
The Internet has been good for us in many ways. But, I feel that a warning should be issued at this point….If you begin to experience any of these symptoms, please stop using the Internet and consult a real person in real life.
Social media allows us to talk more than generations past cared to. Both of my parents were the product of “The Silent Generation” and I grew up with the understanding that children and adults did not talk to each other.
Though our primary means of communicating is in our hands, we don’t have time to talk right now. Sending a text message is complicated because it opens us up to a potentially ongoing conversation.
I carry a stack of 3×5 cards, held together with a rubber band. On them are words that I have collected, prized words that I say to myself most days.
“Watch over each other in prayer.” These words are found in many covenants read by members of Baptist churches. Not to be confused with a creed, it is a community promise.
“Lord, You know.” I was on the expressway one evening after work and found myself repeating these words in between long tears and deep sighs. They are not new or unfamiliar, as I had been introduced to them long before now.
Have you seen Jesus? So often we are looking for a sign that our prayer was answered, that our request was satisfied. We want it in an instant and to our specifications. And if we are honest, we want it to be on a 70-inch flat screen.
So, I hate to begin with bad news but Jesus knows that we don’t always believe. I don’t know if Jesus uses measuring spoons or cups but he knows the quantity of our faith. Maybe he eyeballs it.
Usually when we think of persons who pray, we imagine great women and men of faith. Cue the climactic music. They sound like an elite group of believers and are known to some as “prayer warriors.”
Let us pray. The words are familiar to us but the practice of conversing with the Divine is still unsettling, unrealistic, and even unusual for many believers. Like the children of Israel, we would rather someone pray for us.