I posted a while back about prayer, and received some exceptionally insightful comments. I learned a lot. I confess that, even though I write this blog, I don’t really understand prayer very well. I usually feel like I’m talking to the backs of my eyelids. That’s starting to change.
Perhaps “pointless prayer” is too strong a term. But let me explain my thinking. I have always prayed because it was a means to stop doing something I shouldn’t do. Or start doing something I should do. Or get something I don’t have. Or get rid of something I don’t want. I understand that the Bible says we are supposed to bring our requests to God. But this was different. My thought was, “Prayer is the key to getting this result that I want.” That sounds true. Why else would we pray? But it’s not true. Prayer gets you only one thing: A relationship with God. From there, amazing things happen.
I can already see the comments flowing in, but you need to understand how this worked in my head to see that I’m right about this. Those of you who disagree with the title of this post probably just have a more mature level of prayer than I do. I literally thought that the act of prayer was the key. This action of speaking into darkness behind closed eyes was going to change me. And the center of my prayers was always the same: Me. Sure, I would pray for other people. But the prayer was still, “This is what I want for this person I am praying for.” I wasn’t praying in order to be close to God. I was praying because I thought that saying a bunch of words with my eyes closed would be like flipping a switch and things would happen. Things didn’t happen.
It would be more accurate to title this post, “Talking to the backs of your eyelids will never get you what you want.” That’s all I was doing. I was not seeking a conversation. I was not seeking a relationship. I was just seeking results. It was no different than a stranger walking up to you and asking you for things.
Prayer wasn’t getting me anywhere so I wrote this post a while back. And I put a poll on there asking how you pray. Since I have a personality disorder that causes me to think everyone in the world is just like me, I assumed the overwhelming response would be people confessing that they wished they were more disciplined in their prayer life. But I was wrong. The overwhelming response was that most people reading this blog just pause momentarily throughout the day and pray about whatever moves them at the moment.
This was surprising to me. I follow a lot of the blogs of the commenters and these are people I respect. People doing really cool things in the world for God. People I should listen to. So I did. I stopped trying to jam prayer into a specific spot in my day like it was a chore and started praying whenever I felt moved to do so. Or whenever I felt a moment of weakness. Or a moment of particular strength. Mostly just whenever. I started praying a lot. Far more than I ever did in the days of setting aside a half hour at the beginning of the day. My prayer became more focused. That first half hour of the day was riddled with internal distractions and spinning thoughts of everything from breakfast, to work, to the kids, to whatever. But these little moments of prayer were highly focused. My prayer became pointless. It was not meant to deliver a result that I wanted, or even desperately needed. It was simply to build this amazing relationship. Sure, I know I can ask for things in prayer. But I want to ask them of a Father that I know. That I spend time with. That I care about, and who cares about me. That’s a different level of asking. And it needs to come first, I think.
Something interesting happened that started to reveal this truth to me. I ran out of things to ask for. When you pray a lot, all throughout the day, you kind of run out of the standard shopping list in your head. I started asking God for a closer relationship. I started thanking Him for even hearing my prayers at all. He’s God after all. I started seeing images of me walking along side, and get closer over time. That blackness on the backs of my eyes was being replaced with images of a God who, for whatever reason, wants a relationship with me. It makes no sense to me how this could be, and it never will. I am starting to give up on trying to get it to make sense and instead just being amazed that it happens.
So there you have it. This blog you read is written by a guy who in currently in 3rd Grade Prayer. But a month ago I was in Pre-K so I’m moving up. And I mostly have all of you to thank for it. Things take a long time for me. This skull, with all its fourteen screws holding it together, is pretty thick. But with you along for the ride with me, I feel like some things are starting to come together.
Next step… dealing with the interaction with God and how it freaks me out a little. Overall, the realization that asking God to change everything in your life might actually result in Him doing so. That’s awesome when you write a theoretical blog about things that other people should do. It’s scary when it happens to you. But I can do scary. With you folks along for the ride, I can do scary.
We were built to be heroes. It’s about time we started acting like heroes.