February is a month of prayer at City Pres. At the end of January, Abby Lorenc and team organized an amazing prayer walk at our new building. Now, this month, we are praying together through a prayer devotional. Just last Sunday, Doug’s vision series sermon was on our statement “We pray big prayers.” So a blog post about prayer? Seemed appropriate.
Here’s the thing, though…I kind of stink at prayer. It has never felt natural or comfortable. I’m not just talking about the anxiety that most of us feel when it comes time to pray out loud in a group. I’m talking about praying in front of my kids, praying with my husband, praying with a friend before a meal, praying alone. It’s awkward. I get distracted. I worry too much about how I’m sounding- am I smart enough? Do I sound like I know the scriptures? Do I sound like this is the first time I’ve ever done this? If I say the wrong thing, or say the same thing twice, is someone going to laugh? Is God going to laugh?!
Just this week I was reading the Jesus Storybook Bible with my kids. We read the passage about the Lord’s Prayer. (p 222) The author writes that when we pray, we should talk just like we’re talking to someone we love very much. That’s what I tell my kids when they are learning to pray. Both of my boys were fearful at first- “What do I say? I don’t know what I’m supposed to say.” I told them there is no right or wrong thing to say. “It’s not because you’re so clever, or good, or so important, that God will listen to you. God listens to you because he loves you.” (p 224)
I’m looking for more freedom in my prayer life. Doug mentioned Anne Lamott’s book on Sunday, where she talks about her three essential prayers. “Help! Thanks. Wow!” Sometimes those are the only words I can get out. And doesn’t the scripture tell us that when we don’t know what to say, the Holy Spirit is there, interceding for us? I am far more comfortable writing, so I have a prayer journal. It’s nothing fancy, and I don’t do it every day. I don’t try to sound smart, I just write what’s on my heart. I ask God for help. I pray for you and your fussy baby. I pray for God to provide. I pray for peace. I pray for God’s blessings on City Pres. I pray for the needs that you have shared with me. I pray for rest for Doug and Bobby. I pray for God to give my kids the grace to listen and obey. I pray for patience.
I also use hymns to pray. So many of the hymns that we sing at City Pres are filled with truths pulled straight from the scriptures. They are eloquent and brutally honest. They are both inspiring and incredibly convicting. For a while, I was idolizing these hymn writers, thinking they had it all together. “Look at the words they are writing! They understand God in a way I never will.” But God has shown me that, more than likely, these songs were written by people who needed to hear the very words they were writing. They needed to be reminded that “faith can sing through days of sorrow, all is well.” “O watch and wait with patience, And question all you will; His arms of love and mercy, are round about thee still.”
I love Doug and Bobby’s challenge to us all to “pray big prayers.” Impossible prayers. Preposterous prayers. Prayers that we almost feel foolish to pray. Pray those prayers. Pray the one word prayers. Pray with freedom and abandon. Pray with confidence. Pray without ceasing.