My prayer life sucks. I know every Christian would probably say that, but I bet mine is worse than yours.
When I sit down to pray, I usually get my little list of prayers out, look over it for a few seconds, maybe add a name or two to the list of the already existing 5 things, start praying, start thinking about my life and all the things I need to do, and then forget why I even got the list out in the first place. Some people say that writing down prayers makes it so much easier to stay focused. Just to prove those people wrong, here’s an example of what my prayer journal looks like:
Hey. It’s been a really long time. What is prayer, anyway? How do I do it right? Can you hear me right now? I don’t even know what to pray for…..I want to have a real relationship with you, not a fake one, and not one where I forget about you all the time. Even now I don’t feel sincere. Granted, I am watching Gossip Girl instead of concentrating. I’ll try again later. [June 2013]
I’m not kidding, that was real. Most of the time, my prayers are complaints that I don’t feel like my prayers are working. Even with my list of people and specific things I want to pray for, I feel like I am reading through them, hoping that I say the right combination of words and God will be like “OH YES PERFECT, YOU GOT IT! I’M SENDING HELP NOW!” And when I don’t say the right combination of words, God just tosses my prayer to the side and refuses to come to my aid. Obviously, I know this isn’t true. But I also know I’m not the only one that feels this way (unless I am, then this is awkward)! Most of the time I don’t even think to pray. If you ever have this feeling of “I want to want to pray,” then I am glad to know I’m not alone. I clearly don’t know the perfect way to pray, but from years of experience with a poor praying life, I do know what NOT to do. So here are a few things that you should make sure you never do when you’re trying to have a conversation with The Creator:
1) Do not try to pray while watching Gossip Girl. I know that I’m probably the only one who is obsessed with GG (that’s short for Gossip Girl), so fill in the blank with this one. Get rid of distraction. I know this seems like a no brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many things you can think of doing while you’re trying to pray. Just stop. Turn off your phone, get off twitter, and ignore Chuck and Blair’s dramatic love affair for just a few minutes and you might have a better chance at experiencing God.
2) Do not zap up a prayer just to get something you want. As much as most of today’s “Christians” might like to think, God doesn’t really work like a magic genie. Example: at work I have to clean the bathrooms, both men and women’s. The urinal in the men’s bathroom is broken and doesn’t flush. This is my first night closing alone, and my first night being up close and personal with an unflushed urinal, so you can imagine how excited I felt. I saw what I was dealing with and shot up a prayer really quickly, “God, please don’t let this get any worse, I am ready to go home. Help!” Then I walk into the bathroom stall. I won’t go into detail, but I will say that I dry-heaved four times while cleaning the bathroom that night. All of this to say that even though I rubbed my clorox bottle and said the magic words, the genie god didn’t show up in the bathroom. He could have easily poofed away the…stuff…but he didn’t. Does that mean God isn’t real, or God doesn’t care about me? No. But it does mean that God’s job isn’t just to fix my problems and prayer isn’t just about fixing crappy situations (literally), or that being a Christian means I won’t have to clean up crappy toilets.
3) Do not pretend you have it all together. We all know that Christian who struggles with finding time to feed the homeless because she’s spending too much time volunteering with the children’s ministry, or the Christian who is struggling to be social with friends because she just doesn’t want to get too caught up in “the world.” STOP. Let’s not pretend we have it all together, because as much as you might think you’re fooling everyone, you aren’t. We all know that no one has it together. Or at least I secretly hope that everyone is as chaotic on the inside as me! My advice to myself is to be raw, real, and dirty. That’s when God shows up. He loves real people. I found my journal from a few years ago, when I was first figuring out who the heck God was, and this is what it sounded like:
What about me? Where do I stand? God, please just open my heart to you. Obviously I can’t do it on my own. I’m just tired of fighting my own way and not seeing results. Just raise me from the bottom, because I’m dead and can’t do it myself. Help me to trust you. Give me the ability to put my trust in you. [June 2011]
I wasn’t even a Christian then. I hadn’t even tapped into God’s power yet, or surrendered my life to him. Throughout that summer, I fell into a deep, deep love for Christ and it was reflected in my prayer life. Because I was real, honest, and vulnerable.
These prayer “tips” are probably the most obvious thing ever written, but sometimes it’s just hard to grasp and understand what prayer really is. It doesn’t seem real sometimes, right? Like talking to a brick wall…or a cloud, but it’s real. God is listening, and that’s pretty freaking cool.
I think about the main reasons why I don’t really pray or care about praying that much, and the biggest thing I come up with is that I don’t trust God. If I do ask things of God, which is rare, I try to make sure it’s something that I can control, just in case He doesn’t pull through. Yet another reason for my anxiety. It’s hard trying to control the universe! I am constantly reminded lately of Isaiah 26:3 and will probably reference it all the time:
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
Why is it so hard to keep my mind on God and focus on Him in prayer? Because I don’t trust Him! I don’t trust God with my life half of the time, so why the heck would I count on Him to help me?! Oh, but how simple it could be! If I want to have a perfect peace and a relationship with God, I have to trust Him. My mind will stay on God when I start to trust God. And honestly, it’s just as easy as it sounds. We’re just too scared to give it a real shot.
Prayer is about trust. It’s a relationship, and you have to build that relationship on trusting that God is who He says He is, and that His ultimate concern is loving you. When we can understand that, prayer will become the most exciting thing we could possibly do.