Many of us would probably agree that one of the more difficult aspects of our faith-lives is prayer. I, for one, have a hard time focusing and quieting my mind instead of thinking about all of the homework I need to finish, the work I have to complete, etc.
I bet you have those same problems– it is such a human issue. That is not to say prayer can only be that unfocused, tumultuous time with God; it can be peaceful and fulfilling. We just need to approach it in the right way.
Over the years, I have tried to find a method of prayer that worked for me like it did for some of my peers– meditation, very serious prayers, casual prayers, and everything in between– but I realized I was starting to miss the point.
Prayer isn’t about how I’m saying something, it’s about what I’m saying.
When I was trying to pray like someone else, I was praying about things that were not really on my heart, or that were far removed from my current position. Instead of praying for the people in my life– my family, my friends, my country– I was praying for generic and mundane things, and I noticed.
When we lose sight of who we’re praying to, and why we’re praying, it can be a suffocating and wholly negative experience. Before I recognized that starting my prayers with a simple “thank you” to God was the best way for me to pray, I felt empty and alone, and doubted that God wanted to hear my prayers at all. But when I started thanking God for all that He had provided in a day, for the good and the bad, I began feeling more secure in my faith, because I was finally engaging God on an intimate and personal level. I was no longer shying away from having an earnest conversation with him.
Hebrews 11:1 has always been a favorite verse of mine, and, in my opinion, it states this principle best: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
Faith is confidence. Confidence is defined as “the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something; firm trust.” How awesome is that? A firm trust. Faith is a firm trust that we can rely fully on God. We often forget that trust stems from a conversation; you would never implicitly and firmly trust someone you had never spoken to, right? Prayer is our way of entering into a conversation with Him about that trust; it’s not always pretty or happy– sometimes we tell God “I’m angry that You’re doing this”– but our willingness to say anything at all gives Him an open invitation to tell us why he’s done it and show us why trusting him is so enriching.
Lent is the perfect opportunity for us to reevaluate their prayer lives. We all have the thing that we pledged to abstain from– chocolate, alcohol, or, if you’re like me, listening to the radio in the car– but we can do more than let go of something; we can, in place of that thing, take on something that is good for us.
Prayer is good for us. Having a real, intimate conversation with God is good for us, and he loves it when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and honestly commit to having a conversation with Him. Through prayer, however you go about it, we can build an assurance and confidence that God will sustain us, he will encourage us, and he will never leave us.