Friday, February 22, 2008

Thoughts on prayer

As I continue growing in grace, I'm finding that every area of my life has been affected and is changing. One of those areas is prayer. Bino posted a blog entitled Rethinking ‘Prayer’ which has been very thought provoking. Originally, I intended to add a comment to his blog but since it kept getting longer and longer, I decided to do a blog and share some additional thoughts.

Prayer is one of the areas in my life where I still struggle as I seek to find the new thing that Father is bringing me into and I still, at times, operate in some of the formulas and rote prayers that Bino mentioned. This seems to be especially true in group prayers so right now I don't pray much with anyone else since I'm trying to unlearn the old so I can begin to experience the new.

Darin Hufford recently posted a blog about prayer on his website and at the end of it he commented, “Find Him in your own way.” That wasn't the main point of his blog but that's what stuck out to me so I emailed him and asked him about what I called my not praying type of prayers.

This is how I described it to him: "By nature, I tend to be a thinker. I think a lot and that's how I process things but I don't normally do it in conversation with God. It's mostly me thinking and, at times, I'll speak to him in my thoughts. I feel as though I should be speaking to him more instead of just thinking. I also feel that I should be speaking to him out loud. I’ve tried but normally it just doesn't seem to flow that way. It doesn’t always seem natural.

While I’ve been thinking things through, I’ve had some wonderful solutions and revelations come to my mind that I’m firmly convinced are from God. I assume that if Father can direct my thoughts when I ask him a question then he can direct my thoughts when I'm in thinking mode.

However, I still feel guilty about not praying more in the traditional manner. Am I wrong in the way I do it? Should I force myself to do more conversation even when it doesn’t feel right? I suppose if I did it long enough, it would seem more natural."

Darin was very gracious and encouraging. Steve McVey has said that Father speaks to us through our thoughts and Darin confirmed this. Now, I'm not saying that I never speak to Him because I do speak directly to him throughout the course of my day but most of it is through my thoughts.

I believe prayer is basically communication and I think the way we pray can change over time as our relationship grows. Also, I don't believe any one method is right for everyone. I do believe it's an individual thing because we are all unique. Religious prayers lead to regimentation and, as I said in A beautiful tapestry, they tend to produce little clones who all pray alike.

I'm really coming to believe that Darin's counsel to find God in our own way is the path to freedom and growth in this grace walk.


Daelon said...

I definitely can relate to "finding your own way to pray".

Before beginning my surrender to God's grace, I thought prayer had to be decently long, articulated and well thought out. After all, all my friends pray sort of long, articulate prayers. But I myself just don't feel the need or the desire. I'm one who really wants to get straight to the point. I want to be real and quit all the "heaping up empty phrases".

Don't get me wrong, some people are gifted with the gift of prayer and can pray long, articulate, beautiful prayers. But I'm not one who has that gift, therefore if I did it, it would just be me rattling off words out of a heart of reluctance.

My prayer is my constant consciousness of God and I try to speak whatever fills my heart to the point of speaking. I think prayer is simply expressing your heart to God. Prayer is definitely for our relationship with God.

I despise it when people say, "As a Christian, you have to pray everyday." Please, spare me. Don't make relationship with my God something done reluctantly and without heart. Keep your dead religion to yourself.

But of course I can't say that to people. I have a difficult time speaking the truth in love lol.

Joel Brueseke said...

Aida... I truly have come to appreciate the whole thing about communicating with God through our thoughts. I've come to a very similar conclusion as yours. Sometimes God speaks to me through my thoughts, and many times my thoughts are really communication with Him. There's no real "solid line" of distinction. Sometimes my thoughts are conscious communication with God and sometimes I snap out of "subconscious" thinking into "conscious" thinking and I realize I've been communicating with my Father.

Daelon... I can truly relate to what you say here, especially when I'm praying with a group of people. When I pray with others, I absolutely hate using "fillers" and "empty phrases," or trying to act spiritual. When praying with others, I tend to be more focused on substance rather than form.

Well, I'm never really focused on "form." Not anymore anyway. Like you, I used to be. :) But I just can't do it anymore.

In my everyday communication with God, I find that it's more of a "thinking out loud" type of thing (or a "thinking quietly" type of thing). I don't necessarily have a point that I'm trying to make to God, but rather I'm simply communicating what's on my heart with Him, without feeling the pressure to have it "make sense" or to find the right words to express myself. I'm confidant that He knows what I'm communicating, and so very often it's not about the actual specific words but it's simply a matter of two hearts speaking to each other.

Aida said...

Matthew and Joel, thanks for sharing. Nicki also made some similar comments on Bino's blog. All of them are good.

There's so much emphasis in religion on traditional types of prayer. You go off where it's quiet with your Bible and follow a prescribed method of prayer - adoration, confession, petition and thanksgiving. Since I've never really fit into the mold, it's easy to wonder if I'm off base.

I was surprised to find that all of you as well as Darin pray the same way I do. I'm glad to know I'm not a nut case . . . well, at least, not in this situation.

This has all been so very helpful.

Matthew, I can relate to what you said about wanting to be real and to stop "heaping up empty phrases". When in a group, I find myself praying for the audience instead of to my Father. Privately, I can just talk to him or think with him but, when I get into a group, I start focusing on how I sound. Of course, people tell me how beautifully I pray but that's not what I want. I want to be real with my Daddy.

I haven't been able to make the transition yet in group prayer so that's why I avoid it. Fortunately, I've come to understand that's it's all a growth process and that's one area where Daddy is teaching me and growing me up.



Livingsword said...

Hi Aida;

I appreciate the genuine and vulnerable way in which you expressed yourself.

As prayer is immensely personal, and important we must be extra careful in how we approach this topic.

Personally I have found praying in all kinds of locations throughout my daily life to be helpful in diversifying my prayers. This means I pray wherever I am and often it will then take on a more conversational approach or more formal because of the circumstances.

I have found that when using Scripture using The Message paraphrase can be an outstanding catalyst to intimate prayer….

As I didn’t grow up in the Church I didn’t learn the more traditional forms of prayer which personally I find at times to be rather lifeless, but I know for others this is not the case….

Daelon said...

Joel and Aida,

You guys describe exactly what I feel like around people when praying, which is a big reason why I refuse to pray around other people. I know it will be for show. I can't get my mind off what others are thinking long enough to talk to God.

I still feel traditional prayer atmospheres whenever I'm around people praying. My prayers might cause us all to feel awkward because I don't feel like going through calisthenics before getting to the point of my prayer. And honestly, I have no idea what "Bless this food" is suppose to mean. I hear it and I don't like it because it makes no sense to me. It seems to me like something we say just to sound pretty.

This is what I love about my brothers and sisters who love God's Grace. They're thirsty for being real. I hate feeling like I'm at school when we pray or open our Bibles.

Deb said...

Hi Aida....:-)

This is a test.


Aida said...

Deb, you did it!! Yay!! I'm proud of you.

Love, Aida

Aida said...

Thanks for stopping by, livingsword. I hope your simulblog went well yesterday. I didn't have too much time to check out what you were doing. I looked but couldn't figure it out easily so I decided to explore your blog when I have more time. 8:30 am would have worked so much better for me than 2:30 pm.

I think you're right about praying being personal. I found that even some of what I consider to be too traditional has great meaning for someone else. It's important to give people freedom to walk out their individual journey however Father may be leading them.

I probably tend to pray similar to the way you do. A lot through my thoughts and also a lot of spontaneity. Although I've tried it, a set "quiet time" has never worked for me.

I've found there is so much going on around me that initiates communication with my Father. I love being free in this aspect of my life. I find it has more meaning for me than a prayer list or a set prayer time.

I think it's interesting that you didn't grow up as part of the Church. In some ways, I suppose that can be an advantage since, from the beginning, you were free to go with Father wherever he was leading without tradition getting in the way.


I understand where you're coming from. The "church" I attend on Sundays considers me to be one of their "intercessors" so periodically I'm invited to their prayer activities. When I was trying to fit in I went but I haven't gone in more that a year. Like you, I don't find it beneficial and there are too many distractions.

Since I'm still trying to work through so much regarding prayer, I don't need any extra distractions. I guess for me it's a time for detoxing from all of the errors that I picked up over the years.

Like you, I find this group of grace bloggers to be very refreshing . . . a place where I'm learning to be real and not be so concerned with what others may be thinking. That's a great place to be.


Bino B. Manjasseril said...

I have tried setting up regular 'quite time' with God couple of years ago thinking thats what I was missing in my Christian life. So I go into a room with my Bible, kneel down, open the Bible and start reading and ask God to speak to me. The interesting thing is, He never ever spoke to me during that time! And after may be couple of minutes of my struggle, my daughter would come and start knocking on the door and I get frustrated, miserable and angry. I have often wondered why these 'spiritual habits' don't work for me. I think today I know the answer: I was trying to reach up to God using the energy of my flesh. It won't work that way. TO me, the key thing above all these is, understanding the love of God and start growing in it. Unless we know how much He loves us, we will not be able to love Him back. And love has to be the motivator for any communication with God. Without love, all our prayers are like 'resounding gong or a clanging cymbal'.

Livingsword said...

Hi Aida;

Don’t be concerned about the simulblog Aida, no big deal…

I do have the Scripture with me almost all the time and so often I am using it as a “contact point” with God, I am very familiar with many passages of Scripture but I find it helpful to have the Bible with me since then often God will take me off my well worn paths into other pastures I have not encountered as much, or perhaps speak to me in a little different way as my walk and relationship grows. I find that it helps my relationship with God grow when I am engaged with Him wherever I am, He is the “God of the living” He is always with us which is comfort to say the least but it means we can also be transformed throughout the day, it means He owns every moment of our day, not just “quite times” or Sunday mornings… anyways it is different for different people.

I became a follower of Jesus at 28 (I’m now 43), and had nothing to do with the Church before that.

Whether growing up outside the Church or within the Church there are pluses and minuses. The negative for me was that I was at a loss with the churchianity sub-culture which for me often does not reflect the Scripture. It makes it harder to relate to your brothers and sisters. The plus of that is God has used me as a catalyst of change within my local Church in ways that I could not have accomplished left to my own devices.

Aida said...

Bino, I love what you said. Without love, it's all works that usually produce nothing but frustration. When I was attempting a quiet time, I found I could do it for a while but, over time, the enthusiasm would wane and I would stop. I would always feel guilty thinking it was my lack of commitment that was the problem.

Now I understand that prayer is, as is all meaningful conversation, the result of a relationship. When we come into a living, vital relationship with our Father, we don't have to struggle to pray. It becomes a natural expression of that relationship.

Hi livingsword,

You are right. I too have found it important to be involved with him throughout the day. I work in a public high school and teenagers can be very distracting at times. (That's definitely an understatement.) Anyway, during those times, I lose my conscious awareness of his presence but, when I re-focus my mind, his presence is once again with me. For those moments, my awareness is being distracted but he hasn't left me. He's still there involved in what I'm doing.

Like you, I didn't grow up in "church." I didn't establish a relationship with Jesus until I was a teeanager and, even then for many years, it was up and down. Some stability didn't come until about 30 years ago. It was still up and down but things did start levelling off.

Really, neither way is best. Whether in "church" or out, just living in this world, we'll pick up works mindsets from which we need to be set free.