Back to the Basics
I’m an introvert, so one of the hardest things in the world for me is initiating conversation. Icebreaker activities fall in a list of my top ten least favorite things to do, along with hailing a waiter for the check, mingling at high school reunions, and job interviews. Essentially, when I’m in a situation that necessitates interaction with strangers or acquaintances, I become a feverish, panic-stricken mess. I feel like a shell of myself, disengaged from the connections I’m supposed to be making, intensely aware that this is not something I’m good at. My capacity for creating competent sentences evaporates, and I worry that every word I utter sounds moronic.
For the last several years, this is also how I’ve talked to God: with bursts of pleading or thankfulness every once in a while. I don’t have the best prayer life. In fact, I don’t have much of a prayer life at all.
I don’t like to admit that. Amid a life of faithful church attendance, Christian summer camps, and Bible studies, praying shouldn’t be an uncomfortable action or rare occurrence. The only reason for my stilted prayer life is my own reluctance. My hesitancy to talk to God stems not out of fear of rejection or distrust of his goodness, but rather from an anxiety that I won’t be good at it, and that my words will be empty. I don’t know how to begin the conversation and be real about it.
I know that’s an illogical reason to avoid prayer. How many verses could we cite affirming the necessity, relevancy, and power of prayer, or the Lord’s understanding of our needs?
- Philippians 4:6-7: Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
- 1 John 5:14-15: And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:17: Never stop praying.
Even so, I’ve let my worries about authenticity become a sufficient deterrent. I pray when prompted by extreme need or joy, but have resisted quieter encounters. Only recently have I truly considered what the lack of a dedicated prayer life—a daily time of distinct, devoted conversation—meant for my faith.
A recent sermon at my church hit the proverbial nerve when our rector read from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, which opens with a prayer: “I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return” (1:9-10).
Two chapters later, Paul writes: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection.” (3:10).
When our rector began to talk about these verses in relation to one another, I realized then what I imagine is so obvious to those who already experience a powerful and prayerful relationship with the Lord: that if I defer or delay this most personal interaction with him, I’m ignoring what matters: getting to know Christ, growing in understanding, knowing love, being transformed.
I realized that I want Paul’s rich, transformative relationship with Christ, and it has to be one clearly built on prayer. And if I want to pray with authenticity, I have to pray for authenticity.
So my first prayer today is going to be for the simple desire to pray every day, and the courage to act on that desire.
By Ashley Gray
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