Spiritual Bumbles: Prayer Pitfalls

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of Christ Jesus for you.”

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, ESV

When I was a little girl, I can remember lying awake late into the night talking to God. I would share my thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams, fears, struggles, anything and everything that came to my mind. I would literally speak out loud, sometimes drawing questioning knocks from my mama who thought I was on the phone with a friend after bedtime or watching TV when I shouldn’t be. I would just commune with the Father until my little eyes fell asleep.  

As I got older, I turned to journaling my prayers, filling pages and pages with supplication to the Lord, again, sharing my every thought and feeling and worry. Journaling helped me to stay focused and on track, and was a special way to document the wants and needs of my heart so that I could look back later and see how God had answered those prayers. Eventually though, I somehow grew out of this too. Journaling became too time consuming and laborious, and there was no way I could ever fit all the requests I had into one entry. I then drifted into the dangerous territory of believing that if God knew my heart, my every thought and need, there was really no need to speak to Him directly; He was always aware of what was going on inside me, and that was enough.  

This toxic ideology, coupled with the busyness that came along with college and marriage and graduate school and then full-time employment, created a void in my prayer life that became years long and so deep I felt I could never crawl out of it. This is where, if I’m honest, I find myself today, my friends. I’ve tried to pick up journaling again, to take time to pray before sleep comes in the night, to use my commute to and from the office to meet with God, and even prayerfully meditate to relaxing music, but each effort feels lackluster and half baked. I feel the need to pray, believe in the power of prayer, have loved ones who request prayer from me often, and I know in my heart that it is required to experience my relationship with God to the full. My problem, at least in part, is that it’s hard for me to be still. My type A, list making, always thinking, “get it done” personality creates a barrier to meditation and listening and the contemplative, earnest prayer that my heart so desperately needs and my Lord rightfully requests. There are moments of stress and anxiety when I’ll call out to Him for strength or comfort or direction, and I know He hears those prayers, but my heart always pangs with the conviction of His desire to communicate with me in all seasons of my life, not just the difficult ones. 

When I do muster the will to pray, I immediately feel the peace and comfort that likens to reuniting with the sweetest of friends or closest of loved ones after a long absence. It is in those moments that I remember that God has been waiting for my voice, that He was there and willing to listen during the entirety of my silence, and that His love for me has not diminished even an ounce since our last time together. It is a feeling of relief, of comfort, of rest. It’s these experiences that remind me of the importance of prayer, and that it may not come naturally or without sacrifice, but that the discipline and time it takes are more than worth the effort. 

I am grateful that my heart is not yet dull to the conviction of lack of prayer, and that my soul still thirsts for conversations with its Savior. I’m thankful that God continues to gently call me to Himself, and that when I heed that call, He welcomes me with open arms and the loving touch of a Father. I’m thankful for His grace, His forgiveness, His faithfulness. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross has covered the sin of my silence, but it is still the call of a Christian to have fellowship with God in order to understand His will and become more in His likeness. I feel this down to my core, and now I only need to practice obedience.  

I don’t know what a healthy prayer life will look like for me moving forward. Maybe it won’t be just one method that hits the spot every time, and I’m starting to embrace the idea that that’s okay. Maybe it’s a journal entry here or there, praying with and for friends in fellowship, calling out to Him as I lie in bed at night, meditating to a song of worship, speaking with Him throughout the day. It is through this area of weakness that God is teaching and growing and molding me and calling me closer to Himself, and I am ready to answer that call.  

Lord, I pray today that You would draw my heart to Yours in prayer, that you would place in me a desire for communion with you so strong that it cannot be ignored. I pray that You would grant me the discipline and faith to seek You in sorrow and victory, in weakness and in strength, in solitude and community, in confusion and in confidence. Forgive me when I fail, Father, because I know I will, but when those times come, I will also rest in the assurance of Your boundless grace and unending love. Thank You for loving me so deeply that you sent Your only Son to die on an old rugged cross just so You could have an eternal relationship with me. Help me to honor that relationship through the gratitude, confession, and supplication of prayer, Father. I love You so very much, and it’s in Jesus’s precious and holy name I pray, amen.  

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