Our church is nearing the end of our 90 Day Prayer Experiment. A couple of weeks ago, I was teaching a lesson on the topic and began by asking the question, “When I say that today we will be talking about prayer, what comes to your mind?” There was some silence and then a person said something like, “How do you do it? When do you do it? What should I say?” A couple of minutes later, someone said, “Again? It seems like we talk about prayer a lot.”
Prayer is one of those subjects that often gets mixed responses. Maybe it’s because it’s one of those things that we feel should be incredibly simple, that should feel second nature to us and, yet it baffles us all at the same time. Is it hard to pray? Or, is it that we make it hard? I mean think about it—if prayer is simple, second nature to us, why have there been so many books written about it? Why have I read so many books about it?
A long time ago, I was asked by a young, scared, lost person how to get to know God. The question caught me off guard and so the Holy Spirit must have swooped in because I said, “How do you get to know another person?” She said, “You talk to them, ask questions and then listen.” I said, “I think it’s the same with God.” I don’t know if she ever got to know God—I do hope so—but she seemed to get that. Just talk, ask questions and listen. Sounds simple enough.
I think that prayer seems hard because it sometimes feels like I’m talking to myself. I feel “self-conscious” instead of “God-conscious.” My pal Frederick Buechner says that that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He says to go ahead and “talk to yourself about your own life, about what you’ve done and what you have failed to do, and about who you are and who you wish you were and who the people you love are and the people you don’t love too. Talk to yourself about what matters most to you, because if you don’t, you may forget what matters most to you.”
What’s comforting to me is that when I’m self-consciously rattling on to myself, I do believe God is listening in like I did when my toddler daughter was playing by herself in her room. She’d be talking 90 miles an hour to her My Little Ponies while I stood outside the door taking in every word—with a smile on my face and gratitude in my heart.
So, yes, we are talking about prayer yet again. Prayer that was so simple, second nature really, to Jesus, but is sometimes hard for us. “Lord, teach us to pray!” We know that good communication is essential in all our relationships with family, with friends—all relationships. We read books and articles to get better at it. We go to counseling to get new perspectives and learn how to talk more openly, express ourselves more clearly. We know that we need to talk, ask questions AND listen. Our relationship with God is no different.