I got slapped today and it smarted. Not physically, though I think the sting from that kind of slap would have long since passed. No, I got one of those “Pull yourself together and calm down, man” kind of slaps (though mercifully not as dramatic as that epic scene from Airplane. If you don’t know what I mean, go ahead, Youtube it. I can wait. See, what I mean?). A simple email made me realize that I need to get my act together about something that gets way too overlooked or misunderstood – Prayer.
Prayer is hard for me, at least at first. I was told when I was little I was borderline ADD and I think as I’ve grown older I’ve crossed over into that wonderful world. I start to try to pray with all the best intention but The Lord’s Prayer is too much for me. The mention of bread gets me thinking about lunch and if we’re doing the “debts and debtors” version, I start wondering if I got all my bills paid for the month yet. You laugh, but most of you out there do the same thing.
Prayer isn’t meant to be like that. It seems so hard at times and it’s an easy habit to slip out of. It’s supposed to be conversation and I forget that too much. After going long stretches of time (translated as months) without really praying, I feel that I have to edit my approach to speak to the Almighty Creator Who Sustains All Things. This, for me, usually ends up in a very King James-y kind of language. “Oh-eth Lord-eth, here-eth am I.” I either abandon that approach or the prayer altogether before I get more than a few sentences in. Let me let you in on a little secret: You know why the King James Bible sounds like it does? Because that’s how people talked when the Bible was translated in the 1600s. They were trying to be assessable to the people, so it’s ok to pray in a way you can wrap your mind around, too. Takes a bit of pressure off, doesn’t it?
What I love about prayer is that there are so many kinds you can find in the Bible. Times are good? Talk to God. Times could be better? Talk to God. Life not working out quite like you thought? Talk to God. You find yourself in a deep pit surrounded by a bunch of lions who are looking at you like the Papa John’s guy just showed up? Talk to God. I, also, love the fact that many of the prayers (good and bad) are songs. It doesn’t have to be pretty. Look at the Psalms – David has a lot of prayers that are “God everything is great and you’re wonderful” but aside from these Biblical Top 40 hits, he also dabbles in the emo and screamo (God have you forgotten me? Are you going to let me die?) to the blues. While we aren’t supposed to use God like a Divine Home Shopping Network, all in all, there’s only one way you can really screw up prayer and that’s not to do it. I’ve found from personal experience that if you get in the habit, the knowledge of how to approach the throne and with what tends to come with the flow.
Listen to, or read, other people’s prayers. Just having a peek into other people’s prayer lives can be enlightening Though if you are like me, when you listen to another person’s prayer try not to laugh too hard when you find that one person who adds God or Lord after every few seconds. I have a friend who does it because it helps him keep his mind focused in the right direction, but to me it comes across as if he’s worried that God is ADD and he has to keep getting his attention. This is the beauty of it, find what works and go with it.
A side note: The conversational/relational prayers are not just important, they’re vital to a relationship (try having a relationship with someone who won’t talk to you. That’s what God’s experiencing when you don’t talk with him. Yes, he’s all-knowing but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to hear your take on it). There are other types of prayers as well, though. Some of the faithful who are now gone would pray through meditating on God. Try it sometime. Get to a quiet place and slowly go over the different names and qualities of God. Take a moment in between to ruminate and marinate on it. What it means in general. How that aspect of God relates to you. After a while, you’ll find it easier. Familiarity leads to comfort and constancy.
And if I seem like I’m preaching a sermon, well I am. To me. Because these are things I know but forget. I have a horrible habit of getting perturbed (that’s a big fancy word for pissed off. Use it and you not only seem intelligent, teachers don’t call you down) with God not doing things as I dictate and I decide to “punish” him by not talking. Yes, I realize that sounds incredibly 13-year-old girl of me, but it’s what I do. After going long enough without talking to him, I start to forget that I even was talking to him at one time. Then I have to start over again. Vicious cycle.
So, I’m challenging myself, and whoever else is up for a challenge as well, to speak up. Flare prayers have their place but I’m talking about honest to goodness conversation. Call him God. Call him Father. Call him Papa but call him. And here’s a bigger challenge: Shut up at times to listen to what he has to say, too.