The easiest prayers in the world are when life is just clicking along all cupcakes and roses right? Um, obviously.
“Father God it’s been so heartwarming to see my precious children just love their time together during school break.”
“Thank you Jesus that my man is now wooing me from sunrise to sunset not expecting anything in return”
“Lord thank you for those last five pounds simply falling off when all I’m eating is chocolate and french fries”
OK so I’ve never actually prayed any of those prayers above – or been in one of those blissful situations but I have cruised along on the spiritual highway of life because all was calm. I innocently enough park my prayers in neutral and coast.
Now I still thank God for the day, ask Him to address some easy concerns and give a shout out to His grandness like “Super job with the Grand Canyon God. It totally rocks.” Then I proudly check off my Jesus time and get back to my life.
And honestly on some days it’s just checking in with The Man Upstairs done mostly out of obligation, partially out of guilt and a tad bit of paranoia thrown in that if I don’t show some semblance of praying then something bad is going to happen.
The struggle is real from Catholic guilt instituted in the early years, y’all.
So if we are to pray to God is awaiting my innate desire to commune with Him – totally in spite of what He knows about me – then how the heck do we push past a vanilla prayer life? How do we truly lay out our raw needs that’s not a gimme list? Is it possible for genuine two way communication in speaking our heart’s desires while listening for His response?
What I’ve found is a saying I used mostly through my Public Relations career.
Fake it ’till you make it.
Perhaps a tad worrisome to any of my former bosses to hear, but there’s a reason that you’re whole life you’ve heard that practice makes perfect. And when you are in a season of life that doesn’t slow down long enough for you to take a bathroom break along you had better find a formula that works for you. It might be nanosecond spit prayers shot up to heaven between changing diapers and referring toddlers. Or your quiet time is in the car on the way to work or in carpool line. Having a prayer habit in place that doesn’t zap anymore of your brain energy is crucial for when the other shoe drops.
And that’s not an “if” the other shoe will drop, but “when.” Welcome to the world baby girl.
Knowing that God is good all the time, knowing that He has a much better plan than I do, knowing that He always provides a way, I still manage to be shocked that life isn’t perfect easy.
My reaction, I regret to say, is not dropping everything to run to Jesus like Mary of the New Testament just being still at His feet. My reaction is to move swiftly from shock to tears to anger. I can hold onto resentment like a daytime soap opera star. Dramatic, highly emotional. Some might say unreasonable. In my heart, I am just pained that God would dare to ‘hurt’ my feelings with His suffering. Drama queen stuff here folks.
My leap from crying to crazy pretty much cuts out any stillness the presence of God.
And you’d think I’d learned by now that life isn’t fair. We aren’t promised an easy path because on paper we good girls or because we had a difficult childhood. Hardly. And for those like me who had an idealistic childhood we get out world rocked when reality sets in the some stories just don’t have happy endings. Some people never leave the hospital and despite our best pleading some prayers are not answered like we’d wish.
So when the other shoe drops – and at some point during your time on this planet it will- how do we quickly recover to get our eyes back on trusting God? What is your prayer life game plan before the buzzer sounds?
If life is just on constant repeat as you raise littles the last thing you need is a wash and repeat prayer time eating up precious minutes that could be used for a sacred catnap. Perhaps you are brand stinking new at this faith thing and you are clueless how to get a prayer past your lips so you think you’ll hold off until you have a few more years and Bible studies under your belt to get it right. For all the reasons we bypass holy time a the Lord’s feet whether it be 5 or 55 minutes, there’s nothing a bit of fake enthusiasm matched with a good acronym can’t do. Primarily how I made it through any math class.
Like MC Hammer so eloquently taught us “You’ve got to pray just to make it today.”
How to PRAY even if you don’t feel like it or know how:
P in Pray is for “Praise”
The Lord’s Prayer was shared by Jesus to his Disciples to show them how to pray and right off the bat we find praise first. Found in both the Gospel of Matthew 6:5-15 and the Gospel of Luke 11:1-13 God is addressed as “Our Father” then praised right away with “Hallowed by your name.” Hallow takes on the role of reverence or a sacred awe so you can imagine today if might read “Hey God with you sitting on your throne I am just in total awe at how super terrific you are.” The Message version has nothing on me!
And it’s important to take notice here that if Jesus of all people still took time to conjure prayers relaying how holy God is, we really don’t have a free pass for being super busy. Whether you are on your knees, in carpool line, sitting at the kitchen table or laying in your bed you can take a moment to think of the grandeur in nature you’ve seen or even the brilliance of a life you got to create as you get your mind ready to be in the presence of the God of the Universe.
Before you start ticking off a laundry list of what you need from God or how He can work out a situation pronto in your favor, remember that everyone likes a shout out. Even God. And honestly, it’s just the polite thing to do.
R in Pray is for “Repent”
We all know the adage “those who live in glass houses should not throw stones” so how can we so easily bring our frustrations with others to the Lord without admitting where we’ve gone wrong first? Shouldn’t we heed “create in me a clean heart of God” and ask for forgiveness before we ask God to smite our enemies? Kidding. Sort of.
In 1 John 1:9 the favorite disciple of Jesus encourages us to confess our sins as God will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. And God will do it all over again the next day and the next and the next if it looks to be a lesson we are dead set on learning time and again. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.
And right there in the Lord’s Prayer Jesus details how to simply ask for forgiveness of our debts, or sin, just like we have forgiven others. Sort of tough to be in the presence of God with a hardened heart of unforgiveness trailing us.
One of my favorite quotes is Nelson Mandela’s “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” We forgive because we are commanded to, but not for the benefit of the other person as much as for our own mental health and future growth. You can’t bloom amidst the thorns of bitterness and resentment. And for all God has forgiven me time and again, who am I to hold back the gift to forgive AND forget.
Easier said than done? You bet. But healthier for your heart and mind in the long run? Absolutely.
A in Pray is for “Ask”
People like previews before a movie starts, but that’s not what they paid to see. Just like prayer. You can spend time in worship, in the quiet awe of God’s presence, but I’m gonna bet 9 out of 10 times there’s an ask tacked on the end. Or if it has never crossed your mind to kick off your prayer time with praise then thankfulness (cue my first three decades in life) then your laundry list of wishes right rush out before your knees hit the floor.
Jesus cues us in with the Lord’s Prayer to “give us this day our daily bread” encouraging us to come right out and ask God for our portion. Perhaps your portion is just enough patience to make it to bedtime. Or your portion is abolishing fear or worst case scenario thinking. And our portion can certainly be the big asks. Cancer free results. A marriage to be pieced back together. Again. The child being bullied at school. The faith that is rocked. The baby blues that are drowning you. The inappropriate boss of the job you need. The daughter who has lost her worth and her way.
And how do you ask? Humility is a good start. Not telling God how to do it is another suggestion. “Well obviously you are super busy dealing with the world’s issues God so if you can just knock this out all XYZ we can call it a day.” And not leaving your burden at the alter only to snatch it back before the “amen.” Let your God be big enough to not only meet but exceed your needs. Take a cue from the Gospels of Mark 11:24 and Matthew 21:22 praying as though you’ve already received the answer. Confidence not in you, but in Him.
Y in Pray is for “Yield”
Now this is where the rubber meets the road. Leaving the ask, but trusting the outcome. It’s so easy to proclaim faith when all is trucking along great. Yes when God closes a door He will eventually open a window – but it is freaking agony waiting in the hall. So when standing in the gap we must yield. Or as the Lord’s Prayer wraps with “your kingdom come, your will be done” it highlights how we are to pray for God’s will. Not our desires
And after a lot – and I mean a lot – of asks that were snatched right back so I could advance with my wants and wishes, I can confidently say that there’s nowhere I’d rather be but inside the will of God. Even when it sees like the total opposite of my happy outcome is about to happen. Or not happen.
I know that in saying “your will be done” or “God I will trust you with this worry” the peace I experience can only be described as the peace of God. And their son other thing on this earth that transcends all understanding for this rules following, slight OCD, plan-a-colic hot mess.
And you know what?
For once in my life, that’s more than alright.
Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.