Wondering if your prayer habits are on the right track? Here’s some gentle guidance.
Posted in , Jun 27, 2017
I think a lot about prayer and read a lot about prayer and hear a lot from others about prayer. Many times people wonder if they’re even doing it right. Here, to ease a few misconceptions you might have about prayer…
1. “My mind always wanders when I pray. Shouldn’t I make it stop?”
Of course your mind wanders. Minds do that. Don’t fight it. Take what your mind has wandered to and put it into your prayer.
I’m reminded of the story of the woman who went on a retreat and decided she would spend long hours on her knees dedicated to intense prayer. But after a day she complained to the retreat leader, “I keep falling asleep when I pray.”
The leader wisely replied, “Maybe God is telling you that you need some rest.”
Go ahead and pray for the barking dog outside and the car alarm that has burst through the silence and the colleague who made that cruel comment at work. Especially the latter.
2. “Why don’t I feel more peace when I pray?”
I’ve been caught by this one. Other people look so holy when they pray. Why can’t that be me? More often than not, the minute I close my eyes, I log on to some inner turmoil.
A quick glance at the Psalms is a worthy corrective. Yes, they are full of praise and wonder, but they are also riddled with anger, remorse, despair, fury, jealousy and pain. The message: negative emotions are worthy of prayer too.
Better to tell God how you honestly feel than to bury those feelings inside. A life of prayer isn’t about the sweetness of the words said, it’s about the life itself and the transformations that occur.
3. “Doesn’t God get bored hearing the same things over and over again?”
Truth to tell, most of us ask for the same things: healings of relationships, freedom from want, better health.
Jesus tells an instructive story about a widow who badgered a judge for justice until he finally gave it. Why does he do it? Because she’s so insistent. He can’t take it any longer. “Otherwise,” he says, “there will be no end to her coming here and embarrassing me.”
Is that what God’s like? Of course not. He gives justice quickly. But there is value to our insistence, to us being like that importunate widow. For by repeating our wants, by asking, we gain the strength of our convictions. We gain courage. We gain understanding. We prove to be faithful.
And like the prophet Samuel we say, “Here I am.” The simplest and loveliest of all prayers.