I have been contemplating prayer recently. By contemplating, I mean I’ve been thinking much more about prayer than actually talking to God about prayer, which of course would be praying and might just help the whole situation. But here I find myself, wondering why something so central to this faith we share is such a mystery.
Here’s what I do know about prayer. It’s hard. It’s important. It’s much simpler than we care to make it. And it’s far more complex than we understand.
I also know that pretty much every Christian thinks his or her prayer life isn’t all that great. When you ask a Christian if Jesus died for their sins, they will say yes. When you ask a Christian if communion wafers are too dry, they will say yes. And when you ask a Christian if their prayer life could be better, they will say yes.
I am no different, but I’m also tired of lamenting this fact. I can see spending the next forty years dipping my toes into the shallow pools of God while shouting over my shoulder that’s it’s just too far to jump into the deep end. But who wants to stay in the shallow end shouting all the time?
As I consider why my prayer life “isn’t as good as it could be,” I have to acknowledge the reason this is so: because my experience in prayer hasn’t been worth the effort. By this I mean that the reward hasn’t been worth the cost. While there are a hundred other reasons I don’t pray more earnestly, or more fervently, or more expectantly, or more willfully, or more joyfully, the ground-level reason is because I don’t think it’s worth my time.
I say this with conviction because I believe that tasting the sweetness of God and seeing the beauty of God will lead to the savoring of God over anything else, because He is the greatest of all realities. And I’m coming to see that taking hold of this truth, that God is real, with all the strength I can muster, is necessary if I’m ever going to change my mind and see that time spent with God is absolutely time best spent.
It sounds silly to say God is real. Of course we believe God is real. We’d take a bullet to show that God is real. We’ll give our money and our time so that more people will see that He is real. We’re committed our lives to following Jesus, and worshipping God, and serving Him, and repenting from sin, and sharing the gospel, and all sorts of things that pour from a well-deep belief that God is real.
But if God is real to us, why do we cut Him off mid-sentence? God, I pray for our group tomorrow, that you would work…oh shoot, I forgot to send out that email about the time change.
If God is real to us, why do we continue to teach when we pray in front of a group we just taught? God, help us to see, that as you say in your word in the passage we looked at today, that actions speak louder than words, that we need to let go and let God, that the knowledge we gained today should change our hearts and sink down into the roots of our soul, which will bring forth the fruit that will evidence the change in our hearts and [fill in any other bullet points you might want to reinforce from the message].
Real people having real conversations speak in a certain way, and people praying to a God they aren’t deeply convinced is listening speak in a different way. Now this may be a reality of our faith, that the process of being made into the image of Christ comes with stretching and growing and yearning, and that’s OK. But as one preacher says, “It’s OK to not be OK. It’s just not OK to stay that way.”
So this is my prayer today for all of us: God, be real to us. Help us to pray, hear us, speak to us, and give us a heart that desires you most.
Question: How’s your prayer life?