The dead silences mocked me. Why could I pray just fine and dandy when someone asked me to pray for them or with them, but just an intimate time with the Lord turned my usual chatterbox self into a tongue-tied moron?
Yeah. I still don’t know the answer to that. But I do remember the beginning of a long quest to establish a solid and regular prayer life. It began, if you can believe it, with the Megan Follows version of Anne of Green Gables.
I blame Marilla.
I think you’re old enough to think of your own prayer. You thank God for His blessings, and then humbly ask Him for the things you want.”
The words seemed simple enough—just a place to get started. To feel familiar. Make it comfortable. Habits do that, you know. And that seemed a simple enough habit.
So off I went. My blessings—numerous. I could have sat there all day every day sometimes. What’s a gal to do? I limited myself. Ten gratitudes. Three requests.
Oh, it became a habit, all right. A cold, lifeless, empty shell of the prayer life I’d sought. That’s when I wised up and went to the Bible.
A singular notion, no? *rolls eyes at self*
You see, there’s that little thing I’d memorized in school years earlier. Some call it The Lord’s Prayer. After all, it does say to “pray like this.” And my prayers changed once more.
Dear Lord in Heaven. Wow, what an amazing thought. You’re there. Preparing that place. So cool. Oh, sorry. Um… where was I. Oh, the hallowed name bit. Yes, You are holy! You are worthy, oh Lord! To receive glory, honor and power…
I might note, that by this point, I’d probably begun singing. I do that.
Oh, right. Um… May your kingdom grow every day. I need to remember to share the Gospel wherever I go—even if it’s just in how I treat others. Can you help me remember that? Thanks.
Um… kingdom come… will.. Will! Yes, help me to do Your will. Of course, it would help if I knew what that was—a little more specifically than reading the Bible and hoping I get it all. Nice specific bullet points would sure be nice! A checklist? Pretty little boxes to mark off when complete? You know how I love those!
Oh, and if the church would do Your will as beautifully as your angels—wow, what a world this would be. Help us keep our eyes on You. I guess that means back to the Bible for me.
I wish I could say I’m joking or exaggerating. People want others to be “Real.“ This is as real as it gets, folks.
Thank you that we have more than just bread every day. I mean, I guess that would solve my terrible habit of forgetting to take out something for dinner, but ugh. So thank you for variety in food, for the money to buy food, and… please help me be honest and sincere about my gratitude for being able to serve my family by making that food.
Please forgive our debts… well, it would be fabulous if the mortgage company would just write off our mortgage and hand over the house, but I doubt that’s what You mean. So… everything I’ve done wrong… you know, the sixteen waking hours of my existence… yeah. Those. Can you just forgive it? If I start listing them individually, I’ll be here until tomorrow. On the other hand, that might give me a sin-free day. Wouldn’t that be cool?
Meanwhile, I’ll need help forgiving others, but You know I want to. I mean, It’s that whole Matthew 7:12 thing, right? And besides, unforgiveness is really icky. Ugh. Still, some are easier than others, so when the next rude woman demands intimate details of my sex life to figure out how I could possibly have five kids at my age, would you keep me from bitterness? Yeah. I forgive her. I think.
Oh, and leading me out of temptation! I’ll go for that! How about we just agree that I won’t run into her again, and there won’t be that issue! That is one evil I’d LOVE to be delivered from.
I know You have the power. I glorify You in all and always. Thank you for Jesus Who makes this prayer possible, Amen.
Yeah. For six weeks or so. It kind of worked out the same. Every. Single. Day.
I tried again. For the record, I tried everything I’d ever heard of:
- ACTS— adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication
- FROG— can’t even remember what it stands for now
- Psalms— if David could pray it, why not me?
- Scriptures— why limit myself to just the Psalms? The whole Bible could be one perfectly crafted prayer life!
- Journaling— Writing every prayer out. This actually worked best of everything… but I didn’t always have paper handy!
- Singing— Yes. I actually started singing my prayers. Sometimes as hymns (Aggie, anyone?), sometimes as Scripture (combining things), and other times just singing the words I needed to say but couldn’t. I actually have a cool beans new character, Kelsey, who does this in an upcoming novella, Premeditated Serendipity. Can’t wait to introduce you.
- In the shower— I found this helpful, too. Something about the shower helped me focus. But when I wasn’t in there, I found I didn’t keep a “praying without ceasing” attitude. It was very compartmentalized.
- While I walked— I don’t walk enough. My quest to increase both prayers and exercise–failure. ‘Nuff said.
- Trying to converse like I would with my dad— HA
Okay, that one has a story to it.
So, my dad is a REALLY smart guy. Genius. And he’s super entertaining, usually. So, I tried this for months. It made sense, right? And it hit me I still wasn’t actually praying. Why?
Because while I ask questions and occasionally share a story or something, I have this attitude of, “Dad is there to LISTEN TO and LEARN from.” And well, isn’t that what the Bible is there for? Ahem.
There were more. Trust me. I’ve done it all. From setting a timer and making myself talk until it went off regardless of whether any of it really had anything to do with anything to Aggie’s P-mail system (which I have always done and will always do to some extent).
But every. Single. One. Failed. Me.
Yes, praying failed me!
Why? Because it wasn’t natural. I tried creating disciplines, but for some reason, this time they didn’t work.
It’s like when you see someone’s shiny new schedule and it looks SOOOOOOOOOO cool. You just know that this every 20-minute breakup of your day will make you so much more effective. Sure, it takes that long to roll out of bed when the schedule makes you get up before 10 a.m., and now you’re already twenty minutes behind, but you can change. Look how cool it is!
Yeah. Leave that torture device to Suzy Morning Bird. She deserves it. Hit the snooze and go back to real life.
Where was I? Oh, prayer. Yeah. See that? That interruption? That identifies my whole prayer life in one neat little fake, but oh too real, anecdote.
So, what did I do when praying failed me?
WHAT? Yeah. You see, one day I was talking to myself—probably rehearsing how I’d explain this or that to a kid or maybe the Bible study lesson I’d give. Who knows? I don’t remember. For all I know it was one of my many “fake testimonies.”
Yeah. I do that. I tell myself these testimonies I’d give about how I changed or learned this or that. It helps me figure out what steps I’d have to take to make that happen.
And a lot of times, it works! I’m weird. I know.
But that’s when it hit me.
I talk to myself all the time. I mean, seriously. I’ve done it since I could talk. It’s how I PLOT OUT MY BOOKS for heaven’s sake!
So, I just started talking. Not trying to converse or trying to be intimate. Not trying to do anything but speak what was on my heart.
And you know, I left out a lot of words that we’re used to hearing in prayers. All the “Father Gods” and “Lords” and “Jesus.” I just talked. And when I was talked out, then I’d address it more “prayerfully” with my gratitude for Him listening. For Him caring. I added anything else I wanted to say directly to Him.
Half the time, I forgot “Amen.”
And something happened.
Communication with the Lord became real—for the first time, ever. Sure, I pray like “everyone else” sometimes. I do. It’s real, too.
The Lord felt closer.
Nope. I think He was right there, right where He’s always been all along. I could just feel Him now that I’d tossed aside my personal issues and focused on the point of prayer—communication.
Yeah, I’d tried that before. I had. But not in a way that was natural to me. And that made all the difference.
Sure, I pray like you’re “supposed to” (who decided that there was a ‘supposed to,’ anyway?) sometimes. I do. Sometimes it’s Scripture, singing, writing. Sometimes I can’t even articulate my own thoughts and heart and I go back to simply repeating the Lord’s Prayer. After all, Jesus gave it to us as a gift. I’m grateful for it.
Because it seems like we have to qualify everything we say these days lest someone choose to take them out of context of the rest of anything we’ve ever said, I had to throw this in there.
I’m not advocating flippancy in our addressing the Most High God. I was listening to this song as I wrote this post. The reverence in my heart is not incongruous with the natural approach I’ve taken to speaking with the Lord.