As a child growing up in an evangelical branch of the church, I was taught that prayer was talking to God.
It was right to give thanks to God for food. (God is great. God is good, anyone?)
I was encouraged to pray for those who were going through difficult times. (There’s nothing longer than a church prayer list is there?)
I learned that if you didn’t confess sin before you prayed then God wouldn’t be too happy with you. (I can just hear one of my Sunday School teachers saying: “Confess, confess, confess!”)
And, while I learned a lot all through these years of Christian education– all of the “rules” of prayer seemed to be just that, rules.
I didn’t understand why my relationship with God needed to look one way. Did it have anything to do with my particular personality? I wondered.
I took a break from prayer for many years in my 20s.
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.
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 . . . (insert forthcoming memoir on infertility here).
But over the last year or two, 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 if I’m serving a particular church.
I love my husband.
I love my dear kindred friends.
I love those 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.
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 there’s lots of talking. Other times there’s not.
But, like any relationship I know a spiritual life has ebbs and flows. But prayer is the conversation starter.
This is what I know for sure: I am a creation of the great Creator who loves me. I want to grow to love God more. So I learn to pray.
Why do you pray?