Let me start by saying that I spent most of my childhood in the Catholic church. So, prayer was ingrained in me as being very ritualistic. When you pray, you get on your knees, fold your hands together, and repeat a series of scripted prayers. Or you would get out your rosary beads and pray through the rosary. There were THEEs and THOUs, as well as "Hail Mary's". Even after moving to evangelical churches, I still found myself often feeling uncomfortable with prayer that didn't have some sort of ritualism. I would often fall back on the same old words over and over again. You should hear me ask the blessing at dinner. I think I still use roughly the same words that I have for the past twenty years. It has become a ritual in my life.
Part of my struggle with prayer has been the fact that it often feels so impersonal. I say the words that I think I should say and eventually they all come out the same. Frequently, I fall back on the same prayers over and over again. This is why I am excited by this new series at my church. As I listened to Paster Andrew Wilson preach on Sunday, a couple things dawned on me.
First, as Christians, we are called to not only worship Christ, but also have a relationship with Him. I started to think about relationships. I have a relationship with my wife, Diane. Part of that relationship includes the need for conversation. When I want to have a conversation with my wife, I don't need to take up a certain position or strike a particular pose. I simply sit down and talk to her. I tell her my thoughts and my feelings. There are times when the conversation needs to be more focused, particularly when discuss important decisions. Then there are times when the conversation is more casual. In both cases, the key is to be open, honest, and not afraid to speak my mind ... Except in those cases when she asks if those pants make her butt look big.
Why would a relationship with Christ be any different than with my spouse? There are times when I need to show reverence for His power and majesty. There are times when I need to be on my knees with my head bowed before the Creator of the universe. But, there are those times when I should drop the religious words, drop the rituals, and let Christ know what I am feeling. Rituals do not come easy during struggles, tears, and pain. But, truthful and honest conversation does.
The second thing that dawned on me should be a no-brainer. It is something that I know, but often forget. A conversation is two ways. I can't do all of the talking. If I ramble on and on with my fancy "biblical" words, but never hear the response then I have wasted my time and God's. Have you ever spoken to someone who talks so much that you can never get a word in? You find yourself saying; "Hmmm" or "Really?", but nothing else. Welcome to my prayer life. I'm not a great listener. I can talk, but listen? Not so much.
So, as this new series at my church continues, I am starting a new conversation ... with a dear old friend.
You can hear the podcast of the first week of the series, "Blah, Blah, Blah" at The Journey.