As a child, I was taught that prayer was talking to God. It was right to give thanks to God for food. I was encouraged to pray for those who were going through difficult times. I learned that if you didn’t confess sin before you prayed then God wouldn’t be too happy with you.
And, while I learned to like God and all through these years of Christian education at church– all of the “rules” of prayer seemed to be just that, rules. I didn’t understand why I was told to have a relationship with God, but yet there were so many particular rules. As I grew up and learned to make friends, I came to realize that relationships are always in flux, changing over time, growing as life beats on. So, then, why then did God want me to talk to him at 20 the same way that I did when I was 5? This is what my church lead me to believe.
I took a break from prayer for many years in my 20s, at least serious prayer that is. I know that’s not something that preacher types usually share; for they fear it will ruin their holy complex. Well, if you have a holy complex about me, let it go now. I’m just a human being like everyone else.
And, it’s so true. For many, many years, I didn’t really “get” prayer, at least private prayer. Sure, I could stand up in church on Sunday mornings and ask God to bless the sick in my congregation, those with troubles in the world and find a way to end with the Lord’s Prayer– but things weren’t so intimate with God and me. I didn’t see the point, especially as I walked through difficult situations and nothing about my situation seemed to change . . .
But over the last year or so, this has shifted. And I now pray for completely different reasons.
My baby steps back toward prayer centered on praying for those I love.
I don’t know if you are like me or not, but when I love, I fiercely love. I love my congregation members. I love my husband. I love my dears kindred spirit friends. I love dear ones of all kinds that find a way to intersect my life in unique ways. And for me, sometimes, it is hard to know what to do with that love. I truly want the best for them. I want to see them thrive. I want life to be as good to them as it possibly can. However, there comes a time when relationally I have done or can do all I can, but yet my heart isn’t at peace for them. So I pray. I find joy in giving those I love to God.
And, so I’ve learned to pray– love by praying. To ask God, who I believe is the divine parent of us all– to watch over those I know are in need of peace, support or wisdom in their daily lives.
A funny thing has happened to me along the way. I have found myself wanting to pray more. It’s no longer a chore. It’s a sweetness in my day. It has become a relationship between God and my community.
While many might think, it’s shallow– to just pray for people who you love– I say, don’t judge too quickly. In getting the conversation going again, God has come near to me in other ways. I’m beginning to get back to all the other stuff too like “Oh, God I have fallen short of your best for me in this way” or “Oh, God bless those in need in far away places” or “God bless so and so who really annoys me.”
So, why do I pray now? I pray out of relationship. Sometimes I get it right. Sometimes I really mess things up. But, I keep learning to pray because I long for the Creator of this world to bless those whom have touched by life so profusely. I pray because it is an act which connects me to the soul of others like nothing else. I pray because as my compassion muscles are able to grow for others, I truly believe I come and learn more of who God truly is. God comes near– the best gift of all.