I’ve been realizing as of late that I pray like I email. I’ve come to this realization as my church has been doing a series on prayer and the marrieds group we’re a part of has been following along with it. As part of that we have been talking and praying together about what prayer should really look, sound and feel like. As we were praying last Wednesday I became somewhat frustrated with a recurring theme in my prayer life…the sense that my prayer is very impersonal. As I was thinking about it I had this image pop into my head of a letter drifting its way up from me to God and I immediately thought “That’s it!…I pray like I’m sending a letter to God!” We finished the prayer and I brought up the idea to the others in my group…it seemed to resonate with several others, too. This thought has stuck with me and I’ve been mulling it over ever since.
When I email someone I try to convey, as accurately and succinctly as possible, what it is I’m trying to say in the hopes that they will get my message loud and clear and then be able to respond appropriately. That way it shouldn’t take them long…after all, I’m a pretty logical person and I’ve already given them all the facts. Oftentimes I choose the medium of email specifically because I get to control the conversation. I am able to put everything that’s on my mind into writing without the “burden” of allowing the other person the opportunity to interrupt and respond. Essentially, it’s convenient because I don’t have to stop and really listen. After I send the email I wait…I may think back through what I had to say, justifying my rationale and bolstering my position. I prepare for the response, trying to anticpate what it will be…what it should be. Email can be very impersonal this way…a means of doing transactional business with as little human interaction as possible.
When I pray, I find myself going through what it is I want to say to God several times, as if trying to refine the prayer so that the message God gets is loud and clear. By the time I give him the final version, it’s usually devoid of any heart…it’s as though I have transcribed a prayer for someone else and I am merely presenting it to God on their behalf. So why do I pray this way? Does God want my prayer to be this way? I think the very existance of Jesus on this planet several thousand years ago is a resounding “No!” Jesus’ promise to remain with us always, in the form of the Spirit, is also a resounding “No!” God telling us He is here, in our midst, is a resounding “No!” There are so many examples in the Bible of a God who wants real, personal interaction with us…He calls us His friends…He died to reconcile us and allow us into His holy presence.
So, if a friend of mine was standing there in the room with me, would I email them? Of course not…so why do I act that way with God? I’ve tried to start imagining myself looking at God…physically standing in front of Him and speaking with Him. It’s a definite shift in prespective. This type of communication requires listening, paying attention and not getting distracted…all of which are things that I’m not required to do when I send an email. Moses, Hannah, Job, David, Paul (and so many others) prayed this way. God was honored by the personal relationship and was not offended when they were real with Him…Crying out to Him in fear, anger, pain and knowing that their God would not strike them down but that He wanted to hear from them out of the most honest parts of their hearts. This kind of prayer shows and requires faith, true hope and belief in God’s power. It shows that I see communication with God to be as elemental as water, food and oxygen. And, really, if I truly understood that the God of all space and time wanted to dialogue with me, would I opt for email as the best medium?