Prayer. Growing up in church, I was taught to pray, made to feel guilty if I didn’t pray, and spent countless hours—over the years—hearing other people pray. My parents led us in prayer: at the dinner table, during family devotions, because of crisis moments or for the sake of things deemed truly important, and on special occasions that traditionally called for the gesture.
I learned to pray, undoubtedly at bedtime. It was a common practice to say one’s prayers before going to sleep. My memories run something like this: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, if I should die before I wake. …. . What? Wait a minute! I don’t want to pray that; I’m not planning to die tonight.” Mom might have had to lend some assurance once in a while.
I remember hearing sermons on prayer and the need for daily exercise. I would leave church convinced that I could do that; in fact, I was going to pray for an hour every day. Well, 6-7 minutes into my prayer time, and having covered every family member and world crisis I could think of, I would become frustrated and labor under the guilt of not fulfilling my commitment. In time, I would learn that God had not set any expectations on the length of time I would spend in prayer. He was, however, thrilled that I wanted to talk with Him and was waiting for the chance to communicate with me.
The Bible is filled with admonitions to pray, examples of prayer, and stories testifying the benefits of the same. It is somewhat amazing and possibly amusing to consider how much the subject is addressed from the pulpit, the focus of teachings, songs, and publications, versus the prayer-less-ness of the average Christian. Oh, please, no condemnation or identification intended. I confess my own need to pray more.
One has to wonder why something so well lauded and applauded seems to be seldom practiced? O, the crises will drive us to our knees, but a typical, uneventful day might pass without the experience of prayer. Have we become too self-sufficient? That would mean that we only pray when we need something we can’t provide ourselves. Are we too busy? That would suggest we fill our lives with things we think are more important than time with God. Are we hesitant to admit our need for God? That would be an admission of pride that simply is not something we want to consider. Or is it possible we carry guilt from sins committed and unforgiveness held, and we don’t feel worthy of stepping into His presence?
Obviously, we are missing the point: that’s the perfect time to come to that mystical altar and lay the burden down. Furthermore, I choose to re-iterate the possibility of two-way communication here. It is not just speaking to God; hearing from God encapsulates this concept we call prayer. Think of it: the Creator of the Universe wants to have a conversation with you. Suddenly, the sense of opportunity, priority, and availability takes on a whole different meaning.
I am looking forward to hearing from God today, and I look forward to hearing about your conversations with Him as well.