I’ve been realizing lately I’ve looked at prayer wrong my whole life.
I used to think of prayer as something to get done a couple times a day. A list of people to check off. An interruption. Then I could get back to my normal thoughts.
Kind of like when I was going to the gym for 20 minutes a couple times a week. That wasn’t really changing anything. But I have this new app on my computer that makes me take a break every 35 minutes. And in this time now I’ll often do pushups and pull-ups. But now it’s happening often enough that it’s actually changing my body.
With prayer I wasn’t putting enough time or frequency into it to be changing my actual thinking patterns.
The past few months have been an emotional season for me. This doesn’t happen very often, but a few times, out of desperation I tried to lean on God, because I just didn’t know anything else to do (He’s there!). And these have been the most beautiful times of closeness I think I have ever felt with Him (results may vary). I learned that every time I feel sorrow or anxiety, or beauty, or even gratitude, it is an opportunity to engage with God. The feelings are like magnets when I bring them close to Him. And it’s like He’s just been there the whole time to embrace me. “Yeah, get in here, Big Guy. Tell me everything. I really want to hear everything on your heart.”
Sometimes in the past few months, during hard times, I feel like He just holds me like my mom used to do when I was tiny and crying, rocking me in that old creaky rocking chair. And other times I’ll sort of hear insights like, “Now you know how I feel, Ross.” Or “You see that ocean and those stars? I made these for you.” And it’s kind of like realizing your original love has been waiting for you in a room meant for only you and Him. And he’s the best giver in the world. He’s just always thinking, “Come in here and just hang with me for a bit. Yeah, I know what that feels like. Hey, listen, you aren’t gonna believe all the beauty I have planned to show you.” He’s just in there waiting for me to turn and talk.
Okay, but here’s my point. If I don’t practice this mindset, I go back to my old thoughts.
You know. Those thoughts like:
“No one really has to know that Big Macs might be my favorite food.”
And “Oh crap, business transactions have been coming in through PayPal, which goes to my personal bank account. It’s gonna suck to do my taxes.”
And “Are strangers gonna wonder if I’m gay if I wear this tight shirt? Probably yes.”
And “Oooh, that would be a cool book idea. Wait. No more book ideas right now, Ross.”
Anyway, see what I mean. I’m already reeled back into really important stuff. But that’s kind of my point. Just like I get in the habit of thinking of world-stuff, I need to train the habit of thinking thoughts to God. I think over time I will more naturally be conditioned to prayer.
One real quick trick that seems to be working is this. When I don’t know what to think or pray, I just start talking about whatever the first thing is that comes to mind. Go on a long walk and try to keep your lips moving. It’s tough. I’m still in training.
My buddy Andrew did this awesome animation for a short Tim Keller quote on prayer. It summarizes this in far better, fewer words than I have.
Raw Spoon, 7-27-17