I’m going to start off with a confession: prayer has always been awkward for me and terrified me. Praying out loud was even worse. When I was a child, the thought of praying out loud for anything, even meals, was terrifying. I had always grown up hearing about prayer warriors and how important and vital prayer was and I had decided that I was just going to never be a good pray-er. Even when I went to camp and was even a camp counselor, I hated praying out loud and was always terrified that no matter how many times I pray, no matter what I pray for, I was never going to be good at it. I remember being about 17 or 18 and I was a counselor for about 8 or 9 eleven year old’s. Every night we had prayer after service where we would meet in our groups and pray for salvation, strength, change, peace, etc. I prayed for my girls diligently, but I always dreaded the end of the service. I found myself saying the same thing over and over again, or feeling like I was just saying what I was expected to say. The problem was that I had no idea what to pray for. “Dear God, please love this child and watch over her as she gives and dedicates her life to you. Release her of her chains and bondage and help her to walk in your path.” Not too bad, right? On paper, and out loud it seems like a good and serious prayer. However my heart was never satisfied. I would hear other people praying around me and I just kept thinking, “what are they really praying for?” Now, I’m not saying that they weren’t earnestly and honestly praying or that God wasn’t moving, but that not all of it was going deep enough.
You see, most of the time I have felt that prayer was just an emotionally-based way to express something. OR I thought it was something that everyone had to do (or be judged), or I thought it was a way of saying what you thought someone wanted you to say (i.e. I’ll be praying for you.)
My ideas have totally changed over the years and majorly over the course of this summer. When I was a freshman in college, I started becoming an after-school sitter. The family was about half an hour away from my school so I would usually take advantage of that time to talk to God. And that is how I started actually praying. I learned many things like how it’s okay to listen, and in fact we NEED to listen. But I also learned how informal prayer really can and should be. My prayer became more than just “thank you” but I actually started having a conversation with God. I talked about my day, my wants and desires, my highlights and my low points. It wasn’t about what I thought people wanted to hear, but rather what I needed to say and also what I needed to hear. I found myself more at peace and able to concentrate more when I prayed out loud, thus beginning my practice. After a little bit the fear of praying ceased to exist and I even enjoyed some moments when I got to pray out loud with others. However, I still had a problem: praying for others.
Now, I do not mean that I hated praying for others, because that is certainly not the case. BUT I felt that awkwardness whenever I had someone say, “I’ll be praying for you,” or “I’m praying for you,” or “please pray for me.” I felt like the prayer, or the mentioning of it was some sort of secret handshake or something. Alright, you pray, you’re in! So I started to refrain from ever really mentioning it.
My thoughts have changed. However, this has been a recent development, so recent that it only occurred two days ago. As I said, my personal prayer has been really developing since my freshman year in college (although I did pray before that, it was just at a different level), but i still struggled with how to take my personal prayer and have it include others.
My journey for my answer began a month or two before the end of my spring semester this past school year. I was sitting in church listening to the pastor and he told this story about how he’s always heard, “pray Preacher, pray.” And one day, through a series of events, he found that it should not just be because he was a preacher, but that because he was a Christian, and therefore it is not “pray Preacher, pray,” but rather, “pray Christian, pray.” Those three simple words have stuck with me for a while and one day, they popped out at me. “Pray Christian, Pray.” Over and over it came to me and I knew that I needed to take my prayer life even further. Now, as I said in the beginning, I had always accepted that I would never be a prayer warrior, but at that moment, I knew that I had to become one. I struggled with this concept for about 2 or 3 months until one day I decided that I was okay with that. I was going to become a prayer warrior.
This is what leads to a few days ago. I was reading my Bible and I, for once, decided to read the New Testament. (For some unknown reason I’ve always preferred the Old Testament.) Anyway, I was reading one of Paul’s letters, and he mentioned prayer so many times. It wasn’t even a “you need to pray more,” or “pray for us because… you should,” or “Hey! Prayer, yeah.” But rather, “Every time I pray, I always rejoice that I know you,” or “As we were praying for you, we thanked God for you.” It wasn’t him being kind, or nice, or telling them what they wanted to hear. it was him being honest, and saying what he needed to say. You feel the genuine encouragement and love from the pages. And that’s when it hit me. Prayer is powerful.It bonds us with those we are praying with and also for. It gives us strength and encouragement. It allows us to communicate with God and also shows us things we may never have otherwise seen or known. Maybe I’m just behind on my prayer knowledge, but I finally saw prayer in a new light. I had always known that it was for those reasons listed about and also that it was a necessity, but now I knew that it was for completely different reasons and in a completely different way. However prayer is tricky. The reason why when I prayed before and my heart was never satisfied was because I was not saying what I needed to. I was so worried about if I was saying the right thing; if I was saying the wrong thing; if I was praying too loud or not loud enough that I couldn’t allow myself to just speak or to just listen. Prayer is powerful because it opens us up; it bonds us and ignites us; but if we’re not careful, we can be easily distracted.