Exploring Sacred Space: The Awkward Dance of Prayer
The third article in the Sacred Space series is now up online! Check it out on The Chimes website, in-print at Biola University, or right here on my blog. Enjoy!
Exploring Sacred Space:
Seeing God in Everyday Life
The Awkward Dance of Prayer
Prayer is one of those things that everyone tells you to do, but no one has time to do it. However, the fact is that everyone has the same 168 hours per week. So it’s not a matter of whether we have time or not, but a matter of how important prayer is to us. If prayer is a priority, then we will make time for it. But how much of a priority does it have to be?
Think about it like this. Prayer is the main way we communicate to God. It’s how we dialogue with him and interact with him. It’s the basis of our relationship with him just like conversation is the basis of our friendships. With that in mind, I am not going to try to convince you that prayer is important. I think all of us know that. What really matters is how to go about incorporating it into our daily life.
Conversing with God
In most seasons of life, we only pray when we’re in trouble or in need. “God, I pray that you would provide for this mission trip.” “God, I pray that this conference we’re organizing would go well.” “God, I pray that you would give me energy for this school week.”
Think of what it would be like if a son only went to his father when he was in need. “Dad, can you lend me some money for this next car payment? I promise I’ll pay you back.” “Dad, can you help me move out of my dorm at the end of the semester? My roommate won’t be able to help me.” “Dad, I know I’m graduating this semester, but can I move back to your place for a little until I figure things out?”
If he is a good father, he will gladly do those things for his son. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with these needs. By nature, we are creatures of great need. But when these needs become the basis of the whole relationship, something has been lost: normal conversation.
When was the last time the son called his dad just to talk? When was the last time he talked to him not because he needed something, but because he saw the value in having a good conversation — one in which he delights in being with him.
Making prayer a priority
We are already good enough at asking God for things and making pleas for help. We’re naturals. And while these needs and requests are OK, we need to relearn how to have conversations with God — normal conversations as our prayers: not asking for anything, not telling him what we need, just talking to him about our day and asking him questions with no strings attached, like we would ask our closest of friends.
The psalmist David made his requests and pleas known to God, but he didn’t stop there. He prayed raw prayers where everything was laid out; nothing was hidden. David told God what was on his heart. He told God what he experienced day to day, which is a habit we would benefit from practicing: a habit that would lead to a more genuine and complete relationship with God.
If we neglect to have these conversations, we are missing an integral part of our life with God. If we do not regularly talk to him, he will soon become our lifeline more than our friend.
God doesn’t just want to be the person you talk to when you are in dire need of help; he wants to be the one you talk to on the most normal of normal days. In other words, he wants to be your best friend. And that’s a thought I take great comfort in.
Prayer is essential in my life. If I’m not praying, I’m most likely talking to myself, which leads to worry. I pray to combat anxiety and move toward the peace of God. I pray to keep my motives in check and to set my heart right. Prayer aligns my heart to God’s more than anything else. His will to mine. His Spirit in me.
I need prayer like I need to eat and drink; without it I become weary and parched. It gives me excitement about my future on earth, peace about my past, vibrancy for the present and hope for eternity with God. The joy of prayer is that I, who am only able to see directly in front of me, am praying to a God who sees all of eternity. This is why I can trust him and have peace about the things that happen in my life.
“Prayer is request,” C.S. Lewis once wrote in “The Efficacy of Prayer.” “If an infinitely wise Being listens to the requests of finite and foolish creatures, of course he will sometimes grant and sometimes refuse them.”
We get so angry at God for not answering our prayers like we envisioned. But as I get older, his actions make more sense. It’s for my benefit that he doesn’t answer some of my prayers in the way I wanted.
Filling down time with prayer
I love to pray in dead pockets during the day: waiting in line at the Caf, waiting for coffee to brew, waiting at the doctor’s office. I love having those little moments with him; they keep me on track. Don’t waste those windows of time. Instead, use them to connect to God.
Sometimes, prayer can be a funny thing. We have always had such a hard time with it, and yet, we still have to awkwardly work through all the steps until we’re truly dancing without any conscious thought — until it becomes a natural, spontaneous and freeing part of our lives.