On Prayer (I’m a Christian Who Doesn’t Pray)
It’s a surprising line, right? But it’s true.
I just spent a glorious weekend at the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) annual conference.
I left St. Louis after four days of coffee dates with author friends, tons of hugs, amazing worship time, watching friends win Carol Awards, and laughing too many times to count. It was truly a weekend that uplifted and refreshed my writer’s heart. And as you can imagine, the busy atmosphere could make it difficult to set aside specific quiet time with God. But in praying for a Godly connection this weekend, it just so happens I had a coffee shop meeting with an industry mentor that left me thinking on my prayer life for the four hour drive home that followed…
I realized I don’t pray. Not enough. And not in the right way.
As a woman who loves Jesus and professes to follow Him, I began to realize that my prayer life has a pattern – and it’s not exactly the one I was hoping for. I’ve gone from a life of focusing on daily productivity in the two careers I had to now focusing on days with room in the them – with space on the clock that used to be overfilled. And as this mentor encouraged me over coffee, I began to realize that the presence I needed with Christ was not only lacking, I didn’t even know how to strengthen it.
My prayers could be categorized (5) ways:
“I NEED YOU” PRAYERS —
These are big prayers. Immediate. They pour from our lips as we stand vigil by hospital beds, as we wait for a call from the doctor, when the bank account is in the red, and when we experience rejection and pain. We NEED God then, right? We’re desperate. Reaching out. Nothing can help us but Him and in that moment of intense need, we fall to our knees. We make sure we have tissues in hand because we know we’re going to be unloading a hefty amount of built-up burdens.
“DEAR SANTA” PRAYERS —
We have these prayers from time to time, when something really, really snazzy is just at the edge of our fingertips and we need Him to help us latch on. We may say a quick little prayer for a sports team to win that big game. (What could it hurt, right?) Maybe our child could win that contest or score that goal. It’d be nice to get that promotion or take that dream vacation. It’s the “Thanks for all you’ve given me, God, but can I have __________? Pretty, pretty please? I’d love that! Sincerely, the daughter you seldom hear from.” prayers that make God less than the mighty, grace-filled, royal, loving, kind, redeeming, just, and jealous-for-our-whole-hearts God that He is and lowers him to the category of Santa in the sky. We’ll pray to Him, sure. If we think it might turn into granting the wishes we let drop off our tongues.
“ROBOT” PRAYERS —
I’ve heard our little sons say it over and over: “No I lay me down to sleep…” These prayers are the prescribed connections that we have with God. They start with a quick thanks, a request for what we want, and maybe a mention of someone who is sick or hurting. They may come during the daily devotional time we think we have to complete to stay in His good graces. We’ll chat with Him for a bit, then sign-off with a flippant, “See ya!” and leave the conversation until we rush through it again tomorrow. These prayers are scripted, without depth, forgotten the moment they’re said. More than the others, these prayers are dangerous because they leave us with a stilted, apathetic relationship with Christ the longer I allow the pattern to go on. Prayer: It’s something the “good” Christian should do and in that, I think I’m safe.
“FINE. I’LL PRAY.” PRAYERS —
By far, these are the most damaging prayers to our hearts. They are often born of regret, bitterness, frustration, and even outright anger with God. They start with, “Here’s my problem God — the one you won’t fix, by the way — and here’s what You should be doing about it. You know my need, right? You know how that other person has hurt me. You know my finances, situation at work, my past and my pain… You know all of this and yet, you won’t take it away. You’re the God of the universe! So why are you putting me through this?” These prayers are long. Often unfocused. They’re rants of the wounded and complaints of the righteous. They champion little in the our walk with Him, except to build walls between His face and ours.
“SUNDAY” PRAYERS —
It’s Sunday. We’re in the pew with head bowed. It’s time we give God that nod He deserves. It’s His time for the next 60 minutes, so we give that time block on our watch. We’ll do what the good child does and tip our hat to Him. We’ll chat before we rush home to watch football. And we’re super busy next week, so we think we could give Him another 60 minutes next Sunday morning.
Is any of this familiar? (Please tell me I’m not alone.)
All of the above prayers on focused on Productivity. And as this mentor talked me through over coffee, I was reminded to ask:
Where’s the Presence?
Where’s the investment on my part?
Where’s the communion, the heart-full intimacy with God? It’s lacking. It’s weak. And it’s certainly nowhere to be found in the prayers above. Intimacy is gone and the marriage between God and my broken human heart is consistently fading away.
When do I sit in His presence just because I want to? Because I love Him. Because I desire grace. To have Him whisper my name and find that I run to the altar just because I was quiet enough to have heard His voice.
I’m sharing this song with you today because it speaks to who He is, and what our sincere prayer life can become.
He’ll call us out.
He’ll make us brave.
He’ll banish the fear that can hinder us and stand steadfast in the promises He’s made. But we have to know Him. We have to talk to Him. To listen and obey. We must desire genuine communion, with an open heart, more than we desire anything else on this earth. Daily. Without restraint. To make Him our Champion.
If you’re walking the road of uncertainty, of desire for daily communion with the God of the universe – you’re not alone. If this song spoke to you – you’re not alone. And if you desire peace more than anything else – you are so not alone in it. We’re walking the same road today. And the good news is – there’s another prayer out there that will get us there. It’s simple. It’s open. It’s beautiful and effective in turning our apathy to heart-hungry-humility before the throne.
JESUS + NOTHING = EVERYTHING
“EVERYTHING” PRAYERS —
I heard this once and my heart leapt with it… JESUS + NOTHING = EVERYTHING
This prayer is humble. It’s open. Vulnerable and above all – it’s true! Oh Jesus, you’re everything. We know it. We may lose sight of it, but we still know it. And this prayer made of four little words says it all.