Three and a half years ago I decided I was in a rut with my prayer life. I recognized that my prayer life had devolved into just a list of grievances or wants and was focused solely on me. I knew that something needed to change and so I started a daily “prayer of the day” on Facebook. It’s hard to explain how much this changed my life. Where before I had been focused on myself, suddenly by writing a prayer for the day and asking how I could keep others in prayer, my focus was no longer on me but simply on God and on others. I wasn’t focusing on my own problems all day, worrying and getting angry over unanswered prayers. Instead I focused on bringing others to God in prayer. This one simple act brought me closer to God than I had ever been before.
It was difficult at first to bring my prayer life out in the open for everyone to see. I thought perhaps I would be judged as crazy or a “Jesus freak” but the response I received was overwhelmingly positive. My friends needed this too. They needed to be lifted in prayer and to be encouraged to keep on going through the hard times. Three and a half years later, they still do.
Prayer is a way to connect with God and with each other. Having a strong prayer life is as important as eating well, getting enough rest, exercising, relaxing, and connecting with one another. Prayer is essential to our well-being. Without it we cannot grow.
Chapter 26: The Prayer Process
Matthew Kelly tells us that prayer changes everything. I have to agree. It’s important that we pray, but it’s even more important that we are not simply going to God with a list of grievances or demands and calling it “prayer”. True prayer recognizes God’s faithfulness and love, his blessings and his mercy. It is a conversation where we both talk and listen.
I like that Matthew Kelly tells us that prayer is not a place to hold back. I have heard many people tell me that they are so angry with God that they don’t want to pray. But God wants to hear about our disappointments and our sorrows. He can handle our anger and our despair. He welcomes them so that he can help us through them. While we should make sure that we thank God for all his blessings, it is also important that we bring to him all the things that weigh on our heart.
Point to Ponder: God yearns to spend time with you each day in prayer.
I have taught the prayer process to the kids who go through Confirmation class. Most of them look at me as if I have three heads when I tell them that sitting down for prayer each day is vital to their well-being. I think many people, teens or not, think that setting aside time for prayer and then actively engaging in the prayer process just takes too much time and energy. Rattling off an Our Father or saying a little “Thanks, God!” or “Jesus help me!” is enough. But God calls us to give more of our time to him that just a quick moment or two.
If we think about our relationships with our spouses or good friends we know that developing our relationship took time and effort on our part. We don’t learn much about someone if we simply give a quick hello as we pass them in the store or at work. We may make observations and perhaps even feel like we know someone at least a little by always saying hello, but really, we don’t. We have to set aside time to really talk or hang out if we want to get to know someone. We have to devote time to connect with them.
Our relationship with God is the same. If we simply give him a passing “hello” or “hey I need this….” we will never really learn who God is or connect with him in a meaningful way. The prayer process helps us to not only establish a set routine for praying, but it also helps us to focus on building a relationship with Christ by acknowledging our blessings, accepting our failures, realizing that God was present all throughout our day, asking for mercy and then bringing ours and others’ needs before God. It is a wonderful tool to help us grow spiritually and emotionally.
Verse to Live: “In the morning while it was still dark, he got up and went to the deserted place, and there he prayed.” Mark 1:35
While it is true that we can connect to God through prayer throughout the day (St. Teresa of Avila said that God lives among the pots and the pans… everything we do can be a prayer to God), even Christ needed to go to a quiet place so that he could truly connect with the Father in prayer. We too need to etch out time where we can simply be with God. This is hard in our busy world. We are surrounded with noise and constant pressure to be everywhere and do everything. Still, Christ modeled for us the need to slow down and to simply immerse ourselves in prayer.
Question to Consider: Are you making spiritual progress?
I think I am. I feel different from the person I was before, especially when I share my prayers with my friends on Facebook. Of course there are times I regress though. It is in those times that I see myself simply focusing on my own needs and wants and am not listening to God as much as I am talking. It is when I don’t follow the prayer process that I find my regression is at its worst. I still pray, but not nearly like I do when I purposefully include the prayer process in my life.
Your Turn: How often do you pray? When you pray do you simply list off your needs to God or do you sit quietly as well so that you can hear God speak to you? How do you think the prayer process can change your life?
Prayer: Jesus fill me with the grace to set aside a few minutes each day to spend just chatting with you.