I don't know if you know this but today is National Day of Prayer. So it seemed fitting that my #confession be centered around just that.
My earliest memories of prayer, outside of saying grace before a meal or "now I lay me down to sleep" before bed, were terrifying. They were those moments when adults would randomly call on me to pray at some event or another to show to other adults what a good Christian kid I was. I hated it.
My next most vivid memory of prayer was it going unanswered. I remember finding out my mom was dying, sitting by her hospital bed after school trying to put on a brave face, then going home at night to pray for her recovery. A recovery that never happened and thus confirmed, in my young mind, that prayer didn't matter and that God was going to do whatever He felt like doing regardless of how much I prayed.
So for years after that I didn't pray.
I mean I still prayed when it was expected of me; at holidays, at church, or before a big game. But I didn't have any deep moments alone where I poured my heart out to God because, like I said, I thought He didn't care.
I've changed a lot since then.
Little by little I came to enjoy praying. While it's still rare to see me step up and pray first in large group settings (#IntrovertProbz) I no longer dread it. When I open my mouth now it's like the words just flow out and I leave feeling energized. I also look forward to time in my carefully organized and color-coded prayer journal (oh yea, it gets real y'all) praying for friends and strangers alike.
Now that I've made myself sound like a prayer warrior I have a confession. I still have times, like I did at 12, where I don't want to pray at all. When I feel like I've been praying too long or too hard over something with little to no response from God on the matter. I still get frustrated because I don’t always understand His plans. In those moments I just want to curl up in my bed and say "I'm done since you're just going to do things your way".
But then I remember that prayer doesn't change God it changes me.
So I pull myself together, apologize for my temper tantrum, and keep praying. Because this heart right here definitely needs to be changed y'all. I think back on all the things that didn't go my way and I'm reminded of how they've opened the doors to so many opportunities to minister to people through our shared hurts. And that makes all the "noes" and "not yets" so worth it.
I don't know where you're at today. Maybe you've long ago realized the need to push through and pray even when you don't feel like it. Maybe you've given up on God. Maybe you've never really tried to pray on your own. If the second two are the case today's the perfect day to start or try again. I mean come on it's National Day of Prayer; the name literally tells you to pray. You wouldn't deny yourself a cupcake on National Cupcake Day would you? (If you would there's no hope for reasoning with you because you obviously have much deeper issues…I kid, kinda).
Where do you start? I like to start by praising and thanking God. Can't think of anything to thank Him for? Try harder. I mean you're obviously reading this so you could thank Him that you aren't blind. Or if you are blind and some sweet soul or computer program is reading this to you then you could thank Him for that. Once you start you'll begin to realize all the tiny things you take for granted that someone somewhere is dreaming they had or could do.
Next pour out your heart. Gosh, this can be anything from saying God I don't really know what to say but I know I want to hear from you. Or it could be a fit of rage/sadness where you finally admit, out loud, what He's already known. That you've been disappointed by Him, that you feel forgotten, and that your heart has hardened towards Him. Don't worry He can take it and you'll feel a lot better once you get it out. That's part of the healing process.
Then submit your requests. Personally I get my own pesky prayers out the way first so I'm not distracted while praying for others. I know I'm asking a lot here but yes pray for someone besides yourself too. It plays back into the whole thankfulness thing. Also it's sometimes easier to see prayers being answered in other people's lives so it fights that whole God's not listening to me feeling. Try this for a week before you start the day and I promise your attitude will change; money back guaranteed.
Prayer is a shield to the soul, a sacrifice to God, and a scourge for Satan.
- John Bunyan
- John Bunyan