A Painful Struggle in Prayer
I wish I could tell you that I always have a fantastic prayer life. Every word out of my mouth is a prayer to God. That I follow the verse in Thessalonians…pray without ceasing. That heaven itself waits with bated breath for my every word.
I can’t. Except for that last part. Christ in heaven is waiting for my words to come. When they do, sometimes, they repeat the phrase, “Lord, I’m hurt, I’m angry, I’m confused…I don’t know what to do.”
For those who don’t know me that well. Let me give you a quick synopsis. I have been in a church (probably) more than the average person in life. My Dad was a missionary pastor. Which means, unless I was vomiting or blazing with a fever, I was always in church 3 times a week. Also, we were faithful attendees for revivals, mission conferences, pastor meetings, and the occasional 2 p.m. service on Sundays after “dinner on the grounds.”
I have heard about prayer my entire life. I can recite different styles for quick prayers or how to do timed ones. I can pray through the alphabet as my guide, and memorized different passages concerning prayer. I learned the Lord’s Prayer so long ago, I don’t really remember having to learn it. I’ve just always known it.
Consistent prayer, daily prayer is extremely difficult for me.
This is nothing new, I have struggled with this for the past 37’ish years. If I were to compare it to a diet, I am a chronic yo-yo dieter. You name it, I’ve tried it. I have seen some successes and failures
And yet, when someone comes to me and tells me that they are praying for me, I’m touched beyond belief.
So why am I writing this? Why even bother praying or have a prayer life? I keep failing over and over again. I struggle bringing myself to my knees. The words fail me, what should I say?
The various styles of prayer haunt me. I want to get it right. Should I start with praise or should I just blurt it all out? How reverential should I be? Please don’t read this the wrong way, I do not wish to demean a Holy, Powerful God at all. Yet, I know that He is my friend. His word says that He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother(Proverbs 18) and He is also a thrice-Holy God (Isaiah 7)
“Oh, what peace we often forfeit. Oh, what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry…everything to the Lord in prayer.” What a Friend lyrics
I pray because I need help.
This is often the reason most people pray. They feel the pressure of life pushing them down. A hard situation. Someone is sick. A test is looming. A change is desired.
While the most popular, this type of prayer is the weakest. It is comparable to a short-cut. Just a way to get from point A to point B as fast as possible. No real change in me has been made. My life has been made easier.
I pray because I sense a pulling
Several summers ago, I worked for 6 weeks in Maine. I had recently been downsized from my job in the hospital where I worked and needed short employment. So I found this sleepy-little hospital to work to earn some extra money. While the pay was incredible, and so was my 6 weeks in Maine, the hard part was my family was not with me. My children stayed in Virginia with my mother, and my husband worked full-time in Tennessee.
I was all alone. And for a while, I enjoyed it. Getting to explore a new town, new sights. Staying up as late as I wanted, watching TV that was not kids’ cartoons, changing diapers…you name it, I was loving life. And then day 22 hit. The wave of loneliness swept over me, and I really began to struggle with missing my children and my husband. Each day, my husband would call me, and we’d chat for a while.
Each day, I (looking forward to his call) felt that familiar tug of my heart wanting to be with him and just share with him my day’s happenings.
Prayer with the Lord is the exact same thing. A pulling, a tug of my heart to chat, a sharing of what is going on.
I now pray words that I mean and threw the guides away
When I traveled to Maine, I had to use my GPS all the time to learn how to get around. But after about 3 weeks, I stopped using it. I didn’t stop traveling or driving to work, but I didn’t need the instructions anymore. I still got to work without getting lost.
In prayer, the parallel is the same. The guides are there just for the purpose to guide me. Does the Lord want a prayer that follows a strict-guideline? Or, does he just want me to talk with Him? Does He want to hear the alphabet of prayers or His child who pours out her heart before Him?
Nothing is wrong with using the GPS to get around a town, and neither is nothing wrong with using guides or strategies to help you pray better. But, as I grew in the Lord, I came to realize that really talking in prayer is what I felt I needed to do.
Prayer Changes Me First
The questions, in the previous paragraph, may seem silly, but the questions are still poignant to me. Why? Because I have come to realize, that when I’m worried or stressed, I want to do everything correctly. And while that SOUNDS good, it’s not.
Prayer is not like a recipe or a formula that when done correctly, God pops into your life and suddenly changes things.Prayer is not like a recipe or a formula that when done correctly, God pops into your life and suddenly changes things. #myprayerlife #marriage #christianity Click To Tweet
Yes, He can heal. Yes, He has the power to miraculously change situations, and provide protection in scary situations. He can change people, events, and even the weather. But that is not my decision to make for Him. I can ask Him, but the answer is His alone to give me.
The work that is done in prayer is less about changing circumstances and is more about changing me. Changing me to realize that I cannot make decisions without Christ. Helping me to understand that I need the Lord in my life. Molding me to become more dependent on Him and less reliant on my thoughts, emotions, and will.
My prayers repeat the phrase, “Lord, I’m hurt, I’m angry, I’m confused…I don’t know what to do.” The on-again, off-again yo-yo diet of prayer leaves me anxious and confused.
Will I ever learn and actually keep praying? I don’t know. The previous 30 years of failed histories make me want to say no.
But here’s the thing. I see my lack of praying in my prayer life (my silent treatment to the Lord as a failure. And I don’t discount it or try to excuse it. I know I should not do this) and remember that forgiveness is a prayer away. That closeness again with the Lord is as simple as picking up the phone and speaking. My silent treatment ends when I humbly realize that (once again) I need the Lord.
Is this an excuse to be a yo-yo praying Christian? No. It’s not.
Neither is a reason to give up on prayer entirely. A true waste of a life of prayer life would only be me giving up completely on prayer.
In my deepest, darkest moments, what really got me through was a prayer. Sometimes my prayer was ‘Help me.’ Sometimes a prayer was ‘Thank you.’ What I’ve discovered is that intimate connection and communication with my creator will always get me through because I know my support, my help, is just a prayer away. Iyanla Vanzant
I am thankful that the Lord has not given up on me. He tenderly reaches down through His word and reminds me that He loves me. He treats me tenderly as a Father does His child. And simply asks me to stay and talk a while.
Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not. Jeremiah 31:3
And when I do, suddenly, I start to realize that I’m the one who was needing this all along.