Monday, August 06, 2007


I think maybe my problem is this. The way prayer usually happens in the groups I've been in where it usually happens . . . doesn't seem like prayer to me. At least, not if prayer is supposed to be communication.

I felt some shame when I realised, all those months ago, that the Item was really talking about me when he asked why people say "Lord," all the time when they're praying. And then I felt some defensiveness, because I thought, "You know, if that's the way I have to talk in order to communicate with God out loud, heck. At least I'm making an attempt at communicating with God. And if it is weird-sounding and unnatural, that's too bad, but it's better than nothing."

And I think there is something right about that. If I'm trying to bring someone's request before God and I'm all worried that I'm sounding like a dork while doing it, it renders me completely incapable of saying anything. And besides, I'm not talking to whomever else happens to be in the room, so what does it really matter what they think?

But then when Dear Friend Paulina and I were sitting there praying together, I thought of some other things.

Like, why, when we were telling each other our stories the day before, was that not praying? Jesus said when two or more people are gathered in His name, He's right there. We both love Him and want our lives to reflect Him, so I'm pretty sure He was present. Why didn't we just include Him in the conversation?

When we were talking that first day, both of us were really into what we were describing. When we recapped for each other, we were probably a little less so. When I, at least, closed my eyes and repeated Paulina's stuff after that, I was mostly just rehashing a list. I wanted to mean the things I was saying for her, but I'm pretty sure I would have meant them more if I hadn't been thinking how wooden I sounded, and how I was just reciting, and how I might forget something, and how there has to be a better way of doing this.

I don't know if this would be just as unnatural, or become just as rote and meaningless, but what if there were some way that Christians, when they spent time together, could dedicate their time and conversation to God right at the outset? What if we could be constantly mindful that He was there with us, and what if, instead of occasionally remembering that He was overhearing our conversation (and then maybe feeling guilty about it, because--well, I at least am not always proud of the things I say) we intentionally made Him a part of them--not by talking about Him piously all the time (which would probably bore Him, too), but talking to Him?

I don't know how you do this without sounding (and feeling) like you're talking to a mutual imaginary friend. I'm just trying to fight a disconnect, and brainstorming about it. It seems to me that when you go into your room and shut the door--to talk to God privately--that's appropriate compartmentalisation, if you will. But animatedly talking about something with my friends, and then repeating it all as a list to the Lover of my soul . . . it just seems like there's something wrong with that.


Heather said...

Jenn, this makes complete sense to me! After all, for me, the "pray without ceasing" means directing that inner monologue Godward, so I'm always communicating with Him. Why not in actual dialogue?
Love this idea.
Like the disciples.

Barry Pike said...

I think you are on to something good here, something true.

Annelise said...

This is a really good post and you are right on, I think.

The Cubicle Reverend said...

I just have a hard time concentrating in any group prayer setting.

L.L. Barkat said...

Which would mean we are praying an awful lot every day if we join the spiritual conversations of the blogosphere!

Jenn said...

Wow. I didn't think I'd even get a) this many comments or b) this many comments that thought that any of this was a good idea!



Heather--yeah, like the disciples. I like the "directing inner monologue [and outer dialogue] Godward" way of putting it.

LL--no kidding . . . which I guess is probably good. I mean, there's that "pray without ceasing" verse.

Christianne said...

Last night before we went to bed, Kirk and I had a long conversation that involved caring for each other from a deep heart place. We both had heavy questions on our hearts about things God is doing in our lives, and we just sat with each other and talked about them and cared for each other in that place. Toward the end, in a moment of quiet, I thought, "We should spend some time praying for each other in this place." But then I remembered your post and thought, "This whole conversation has felt like a prayer."

So then I told Kirk all about your thought process in this post, based on your own experience, and ended it by saying, "I say all this to say that this conversation has felt like prayer." And he got this look of recognition in his eyes and went, "Oh. Yes. You're right. It has."

So, yeah. I think you're on to something here, too.

Craver Vii said...

I have had a few friends who were quite natural in the way they prayed. They could weave little sentence prayers in everyday conversation and it reminded me that Jesus was with us.

On the other hand, as I participate in prayer meetings and hear how differently people pray, I feel like God is teaching me through their different approaches.

What a glorious thing that we don't have to know all about prayer before getting started!

Jenn said...

Christianne--that's such a great story. Thanks for sharing it.

And Craver--you get a mention in the next post, so that's all I'll say here!

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