I’m rubbish at praying. No, that’s not the right word. Abysmal, that’s the right word. If God were writing a prayer report on me he’d say, “Who?” I just can’t get it together. Every attempt to make it a regular part of my life fails and I end up retreating back into the infinitely more fascinating world of Bible study. I’ve been wondering why that is. Prayer is the most basic (and technically easy?!) of the spiritual disciplines; after asking forgiveness from your sins and asking Jesus into your life, it’s the number one thing you must, must do as a Christian. And yet I struggle to progress much beyond the awkward conversation you’d have with someone you admired very much but didn’t know very well. I always feel self-conscious doing it. I feel like my words come out as burble and that God’s sat there picking the gunk out from under his nails, listening to me and looking over at Jesus, saying “wake me up when she stops dancing about with this.” Worse, inappropriate stuff pops into my head and I mean very inappropriate. That, or boring stuff, such as what I need to get from the supermarket this week.
I was listening to my friend Karen talk about her prayer life this afternoon. She gets up every morning and prays. Moreover, she stays in the attitude of prayer all day long regardless of what she’s doing. Karen prays like other people breathe. I get up and plunge headlong into my Bible. Prayer gets bolted on as an afterthought, if I’ve got any time left between the section I’m working on and 7.00am, which is when I have to stop and go hoick my teenage daughter out of bed.
It grieves me that no matter how hard I try I still struggle at this. I searched my heart the other day and asked myself why I’m not praying.
- I don’t think I’m doing it correctly. I don’t know what ‘correctly’ is for a kick off. For example; is a prayer null and void if it doesn’t finish with Amen? Do I pray to God or to Jesus? Is it also null and void if it doesn’t finish with the phrase ‘I ask this in the name of your son Jesus Christ?’ These are questions I’ve never dared ask. It sounds a bit daft doesn’t it, that I’m a Christian and I don’t know if there’s a correct form of address to the Almighty. So I’m asking you, ’cause you lot know everything.
- Prayer can be deeply intimate and I’m beginning to see that I hold a lot of myself back, unwilling to let God see the ‘real me’ and unwilling to let him have control. If I pray, I’d have to let God in, properly in. If I don’t pray, then I can keep him at arms length. I can wave at him from time to time and remind him that I’m still here.
- This is probably the clincher – Because if I let him in he’ll want to make changes and I’m fearful of what those might be. OK, I can deal with a few doctrinal challenges, but I know that any changes will be going all the way to the core and that scares me. Who will I be at the end of the process? Will I like the changed me? Will other people like the changed me? Not many of them like me now and if I’m all changed for God I might not have any friends left. I’m not good with rejection, he knows this.
So my prayer difficulties might be less about form and content and more about being scared of what might happen if I did open up and pray. Do I know how to really open up? My blogs are ‘honest’ but you really don’t know the half of it. If I pray, then things I can’t control might happen. I am a girl who thrives on order and routine, so letting God Almighty loose in my life is probably going to disrupt proceedings somewhat and I’m going to struggle. Does anyone else feel this way?
I’m not all useless. I ruminate on scripture a lot. I read and study the Bible endlessly and I see the value of getting the word of God into my life. I want to pray with as much ease as I study. I know that just doing it is the only way forward but I don’t know how to do it ‘right.’ I want to get it right, I don’t want to fail at this because I fail at so much.
Matthew 6:6 says: “But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” I had that scripture twice from two different sources. Either it’s instruction or encouragement I don’t know. I already have a room where I can shut the door on the world so perhaps it’s a case of God saying ‘you have all you need, now just talk to me.’ Perhaps I’m simply over thinking it. But I worry that if I just ‘burble on’ in my own voice that it’s wrong and not respectful to the Creator of the Universe. Should I arrange it in nice sentences with form, content and punctuation? I don’t know!
When are they doing the prayer session on the Alpha Course? It looks like I could do with dropping in.