Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Starting Place

Thank you all for your comments over the last two days. This whole epiphany thing is crazy beans! Feeling your personhood is about to change is weird. And hard. And difficult to comprehend. 

I've gone through many times in my life where it feels like my faith is floundering. As in, I feel like a flounder, flopping around on a sand bar with no clue how to get back in the water.

Is that where the term "floundering" comes from, or have I misunderstood that my whole life? Hmm.

Anyway. When I'm off track, I don't always know how to get back on it. I need a starting place. I know we're all at different points in our faith walk, but I thought some basics might be helpful for someone out there! 

Prayer is the best starting place for anything. Everything. Ever. If you feel God working and you don't know what to do, pray. If you feel lost, pray. If you feel too tired to pray, pray. I know it's not always my first resort, but it totally should be. So, for the sake of this primer, let's start with the best place to start: prayer.

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I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started to pray and said this exact prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you so much for this day and thank you for all the blessings you’ve given me.

I’d like to tell you it gets more interesting from there, but it doesn’t. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this prayer, I guess, but what does it tell God? “Eh. I don’t really have time to be specific, and I don’t want to put the energy into coming up with something different to say every time I pray, so this is what you get. Sorry, Lord.”

He feels the love, I’m sure.

Apart from boring prayers, my other downfall is trying to pray right before bed. I start with my boring prayer, and it certainly doesn’t get more interesting once I’ve gone to dreamland. Sometimes I’ll wake up and try to pick up in the same sentence during which I dozed off, as if God wouldn’t notice that I fell asleep there for a moment. I’m sure he realized that my end of the line went dead.

The purpose of prayer is not to just do our Christian duty and say something so God knows we haven’t forgotten about him. It’s not simply a go-to when we’re in a bind. Prayer is how you form a relationship with God. And how do you form a relationship with anyone? By spending time getting to know each other. “But God already knows me! He knew me before I was created, even! The Bible says so!” Yes, the Bible says that. And he does know you—better than you think. But he still likes to hear things directly from you. He wants to know about your hopes and your fears. He wants you to ask him about them—how to achieve those dreams he’s placed in your heart, how to overcome those human fears that only he can master for you.

I have to say that some of my most productive prayers have come when I don’t want to pray at all. I start off with, “I don't want to pray right now, Lord.” Then I begin to tell him why, just in case he wanted to know my excuse for not praying, but it becomes this whole other thing. Suddenly I spend 45 minutes dumping on God and telling him what’s been going on in my life and how I feel about it. Sometimes I even cry just because I'm opening myself up so fully before God and letting all this pent-up junk go. And it all starts just because I stop in to tell him I’m not going to pray. He wants those moments with us.

But what about finding a moment to have a moment? Some of us are so busy with the rest of our lives that that’s how we become lazy in our faith. Prayer, along with studying the Bible, tends to head to the bottom of our to-do lists when life gets hectic. We get so tired or have so little focus that we can’t possible spend a few minutes with our eyes closed, lest we fall asleep or let a hundred other things into our minds. There are ways to combat this, though.

And I'll share some with you tomorrow!

8 comments:

  1. I have started to do my prayers in the morning. I too have fallen asleep praying when I wait until too late at night.

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  2. I LOVE floundering...I have found that at the other end of it, I find my God to be even bigger in my life than He was before.

    So, yes, when this happens, I have found myself actually anticipating the lesson I will learn.

    I can't wait to hear about yours.

    What a wonderful post, and wonderful, worthwhile blog.

    Thank you

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  3. So, I *finally* took your advice and wrote out an entire prayer yesterday.. it was so great!! Right now I'm so sleep deprived that I'm having a hard time speaking and making any sense - even in my prayers! But writing them down was so much better! I felt like I had actually SAID something to the Lord!!

    This is a great post. Looking foward to the next one! :)

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  4. Another great time to pray- in thanks, in times of blessing, in times of joy.

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  5. Thanks, guys! And Catie, I'm so glad you were able to pray coherently. :) Remember to leave some space so God can talk to you, too--that's the part I forget sometimes. And you're right, Liz---I should have included that!

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  6. Yes, prayer and time alone with God. I really need to work that into my routine.

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  7. When I'm not clear-headed enough to "really pray" or at least say anything that makes sense (not that it needs to), I remember what I read in Traveling Mercies by Ann LaMott -- she writes something about how her two favorite prayers are "help me, help me, help me" and "thank you, thank you, thank you." When I'm lost and don't know quite what to say, usually one or both of those prayers helps to fill the gap.

    Looking forward to reading more here.

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  8. I am sorry I am coming into this so late in the game...but this is a really great post, Rachel.

    You hit on something very important...about the relationship building aspect of prayer. That is what it is there for...and yes, scripture does say He knows us. And indwelling within us, an inherent nature knows Him too...but, consciously, our human (worldly) side really doesn't want to know Him. That is why it is imperative we pray.

    And sometimes to get us to that place of prayer that is really just real with God so we get to that place where we really are getting to know Him more and more, it takes a consistent habit of saying some basic, rote prayers on a regular basis until a breakthrough happens. What helps with the breakthrough though is getting in the Word with prayer I believe.

    I am at that point right now...I have been in a prayer drought as I call it (just doing some basic prayer for certain things) for awhile - but now I am starting to get some of the Word on a regular basis in the mix of that prayer, and some amazing things are starting to happen. They aren't huge, but they are something. :)

    Again, thanks for this post - great insight...and I love your heart.

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