I’d like to admit something. I got tired of praying. My prayers? They annoyed me.
If you didn’t grow up in the church or are part of a contemporary one now, you may not get what I mean (or totally get what I mean!).
I found myself saying the cliche “I’ll pray for you” and cringing. It became a habit, like a catch phrase for when we have nothing else to say. You know that kind of silence when you’ve heard from your friend about how her dad has cancer or that she just found out she’s lost her job. And it’s a pause. And she’s sniffling. And it’s like a reflexive reaction in your throat to fill any space.. .Nothing..to…say…what … do… aaahh-“I’ll pray for you!”
Or it’s one of those moments when you just want to close the conversation. You’ve heard your friend go on about the issues at home and it’s really just a punctuation compunction flung out… “Hey friend, I-gotta-go, but-I’ll-be-praying-for ya’.”
I honestly believe that words have power. (If you don’t believe me, ask me about the story of how I prayed my brother-in-law into existence…). And I want to mean it when I tell some one that I’ll pray for them and not use it flippantly. And I want to be aware of what I’m praying for like who says “traveling mercies” in real life these days? And why are we asking God to “bless our conversations”? Like we’re hoping no one will be offended by the mean things we are about to say.
So for awhile, I quit. I quit volunteering to pray before meetings. I quit praying before meals (Was I actually thankful for my meal as I shoved it in my mouth watching Jeopardy?).
And I have to go back to what my grandpa said a long time ago that prayer is about getting to know Christ. It’s a conversation. Not a list, not an aside or a wish or a quick dashed off text “what’s up?”. Not just bubbles that roll off my tongue and float away, empty and unsubstantial.
I know it’s simple. You’d think I’d get it by now. But it’s something I have to remind myself constantly. I have to actually be intentional about. Kind of like how I would want my friends to be with me. How I’d like to be with my friends.
So. I’m trying to pray more honestly now. And I admit, I pray less because of it. Sometimes I don’t pray at all because sometimes I have no clue what to say.
But I don’t want it to speak Christianese. I want to ask myself, ‘do I really mean this?’ “Do I really know what this means?” “Am I honest in this prayer?”
Telling friends “I’m praying for you.” Well, I don’t mind saying those words, but today I check myself and ask myself, “am I really going to pray for them?”
Sometimes I just say nothing at all but sit with them in silence.