We have had dogs most of our married life and the present canine staff are provided by two spaniels. They need a lot of exercise which I do most of but it’s a quiet time for prayer and thinking about Sunday etc.
A lot of people struggle with prayer. Praying out loud, finding time; knowing what to say; it holds people back. It makes developing a relationship with God hard work. Friends and partners tend to have conversations; it would be odd if they didn’t. Put it another way, it would be rather odd to get a huge television and then never bother to watch it. You wouldn’t get an Aga installed and then devote yourself to salad. Yet so many make a commitment to the Lord of Lords; King of Kings and our Saviour Jesus Christ (and best friend) and never say a word. This came to mind because a previous church member who was quiet about faith has taken to praying with me when I have popped by to see him and his wife who has not been well. He is very good at it and I have been moved each time it’s happened.
Prayer is a conversation with God. You don’t need special or long words. It can be silent or out loud. You don’t need to use a special voice. You just need to make it happen. Best of all you can talk to God about anything.
When I was in the sixth form a good friend of mine who was ‘colourful’ shall we say decided to give God a go ‘but still keep living the life’ as he put it. He took great pleasure in telling me what he had been telling God about. Most clergy would have had a fit and certainly most grandparents would have needed medical assistance if they had heard him. Fortunately God already knows what eighties teenagers could get up to and He’s never surprised or shocked because God knows a thing or two. God was already smiling. My friend is now a vicar in a vibrant London Parish near a university so anything is possible and at least he is never surprised by what the students tell him. At least he wasted no time in getting a prayer life on the go.
Prayer can be about anything and it should be a joy not just a list of problems or requests. How open minded we are makes a difference to the process. If you think God is listening and interested it makes it easier than thinking God left an answering machine going and he just deletes most of what we say as unimportant. Oh yes you may wait a while for the answer and what turns up may not be your idea of an answer to prayer. But your idea may be missing the point. Prayer is two way and if you wait and work on your patience you will find that God gives direction and speaks, he has even been known to share a joke. When I went to Sidmouth one of my friends asked at Synod where did you end up. MY REPLY produced gails of laughter and one word YOU!!!. Should have heard him when he asked about my latest appointment and I said “The Mint”.
Strangely that thought of God speaking to us really upsets some people ‘what, you mean God will speak, oh no, no, no; we can’t be having that’. A lot of people struggle with prayer because they feel something is missing, they try for a short time and when nothing seems to happen they give it up. The missing item is the response. Confirmation, revelation that God is interested in little old you and me. And God is interested. But he waits to see our commitment in the process.
Jonah 1:4-11 Jonah had heard God speak and all that did was get Jonah heading in the opposite direction to where God needed him to be. Storm, fish and stink later, Jonah comes up with a half decent prayer we can all learn from. But his task is still waiting for him and when he goes to ‘revive’ the people of Nineveh they all respond and God is compassionate. Jonah is not chuffed by this turn of events and becomes quite dramatic ‘take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live’. God says “have you any right to be angry?. It takes Jonah a while to unpack that answer and God reveals it is not all about Jonah. Surely there is a lesson there for all of us.
Prayer touches on our hopes, our needs and on what seems impossible. It filters what is human, it fills the gap of what is missing in all our lives and it directs us to listen. My errant friend was a bright lad and he grasped that in his unpresentable state he could speak freely with God and it changed and blessed him and saved many others. If prayer has never been your thing then why not try once more. Perhaps come into church in the week and sit for a while. Keep a prayer diary and cross off those things that have been answered or where you feel God has given direction. Some people have benefitted by thanking God for three things and asking for help on two issues (yours or someone else’s) three times a week or each day. Ask and tell others how it is going
Perhaps at Coffee we should say ‘how is your prayer life’. It would be great to hear from those who find a new heart for speaking with Christ.