“I don’t care what you say, talk to me.”
Any one know the reference? It’s a song from the musical Bye Bye Birdie, of all things. Where the protagonist is singing to the woman he loves, begging her to just talk to him. The few lines I remember from the song are always what pop into my head whenever I read a book or article about prayer, or when I hear someone teaching on prayer, and how we should be praying more (it always seems like we can be doing more).
This picture of the man begging his lover to “just talk to him” is what hits me about the song and how it relates to prayer. This really is God’s view of prayer. It is the means by which his people, his beloved, talk to him.
What lover doesn’t want their beloved to talk to them? As a mom of four kids, I am always stealing away moments to talk to my husband. Talking to him is what I literally stay up late to do. I can’t get enough of the guy! Even with my busy days of babies, cleaning, homework, and making dinner.
If I spend so much time and energy talking to my beloved who is here, and who loves me imperfectly, should I not also have the same excitement to talk to my Beloved who loves me perfectly? I should, and I want to, then why is prayer so hard? Why do so many Christians find prayer hard?
Well, I cannot speak to everyone, but I can speak to what my problem is. For me it is an issue of habit. Simple? Yes. Easy? No.
I fall out of the habit of talking. I am introverted by nature, so it is easy for me to stay in my head and not talk. It is easy to not talk. I know not everyone is like this. Perhaps for you there is something you need to talk to your spouse, or parent, or friend about, but for some reason you can’t. You maybe find it easy to talk about sports, a favorite TV show, how your kids are doing, but not about it (whatever it is). The main thing you have been meaning to bring up, just never happens. Why? I think it’s because we stick to what is normal, what is easy, what is comfortable, and we don’t make new habits of talking. Talking to different people, talking about deeper things, talking about the things of God, or talking to God. It’s simple to change, we just start talking regularly, but it isn’t easy. (I have a theory that simple things are never easy, but that’s for another post.)
For me, I had fallen out of the habit of praying because it was never really a habit of mine to begin with. For those who don’t know my story, here’s the short version: while I grew up in a Christian home, and even made some kind of profession of faith, I didn’t truly give myself over to Christ’s Lordship and have a saving faith of my own until I was in college. I got married right after college, and became a mom a year after that. So, life progressed quickly for me, and there are lots of habits (whether in the home, or in my heart) I never developed. Prayer is one of them.
So, I’ve started anew. I’ve started setting up routines, times, and places for me to pray regularly. That word is key: regularly.
Here’s what I do to make sure I pray.
How to Pray Regularly:
- Pick a Time – For me this is during Jesse’s first, or second, morning nap. I sit in my nursing chair, read my bible, and pray. I use my bible reading to direct my prayers.
- Pick a Place – As I said above, I pray in my nursing chair. It’s my quiet place. It’s in my room, away from the rest of the house. The older kids can, and do, come to me there, but are always quiet and cautious to not wake the baby, which makes it a good place for Mommy to have some quiet time with God.
- Pick an Object – This is something I’ve picked up from a couple different places, but specifically from the tradition of prayer quilts. I was first introduced to the concept of prayer quilts years ago when my Nana got very sick. She was given a prayer quilt from some of her friends who had prayed for her using the quilt while she was in the hospital. A prayer quilt has strings on the top of it and people can gather around it and as they pray they tie the strings in to knots, one knot equaling one prayer. I really like the tactile nature of this tradition. I have adjusted it by using objects I use in my everyday life to be memorials of prayer.
- My first object is my mug. I hold my mug with both hands, feeling the warmth from the hot tea (or coffee) and that feeling slows down my mind. I close my eyes and I pray. Right there with my mug in my hands.
- My second object is a pair of earrings. Almost six years ago, a friend of mine was in the process of adopting an embryo. She had also made these earrings. Once we found out one of the embryos she and her husband had adopted had successfully implanted, I wore those earrings. I wore them nearly everyday for her whole pregnancy, and every time I put them in my ears I prayed for her, her husband, and the baby growing within her. (That little embryo is now a healthy, happy, five year old and dear friend of my children.) Someone in my life recently shared with me they are trying to conceive their first child and are finding it a bit discouraging. I’m wearing the earrings again.
- Pick Requests – I currently have one prayer request I am praying for every day. I don’t keep a list of prayer requests, mostly because I don’t have time, yet, to dedicate to praying through the list. However, whenever someone gives me a request, I pray for it right then in the moment.
It takes discipline. I didn’t want to hear this, and I know this is hard (see, I told you! Simple but hard.) You have to choose to pray instead of doing something else. You have to take the time away from something else and pray. It’s totally worth it! But you have to do it.
You are not alone. God wants. you to pray, and he helps you to pray. This has been the most amazing part of creating a habit of prayer, for the Christian, this is more than a habit, it’s sanctification. Creating a habit of prayer makes you more like Christ.
Have you ever heard the advice “pray until you pray” when trying to develop your habit of prayer? I have, so often! It’s the idea that you should begin doing the thing before your feelings are in it, or even when your feelings aren’t in it. I didn’t really understand this, or how it could work until I read C. S. Lewis’ version of it. He uses the analogy of tin soldiers playing pretend at being real, that this is what Christians are doing essentially at playing to be like Jesus, except that he is beside us, helping us, and making us more real, and less tin (basically, the process of sanctification).
It’s a Process
What I take from the above quote, and from encouragement from scripture in general, is to keep going. Don’t give up if you’ve missed a few days or weeks, or whatever. Just pick up where you left on, or begin anew. God is always waiting to talk to his children. He loves it. It wants it.
I think it’s also helpful, and hopeful, to remember what Jesus said about prayer. He never said “if you pray, pray like this…”. Instead, he always said “when you pray…”. So do it. Just pray. Yes, it may be fumbling and awkward at first, that’s how conversations usually go when you haven’t spoken in a while. It’s normal. Just start talking with God.
I hope you are encouraged by some of my tips to get started praying, again or for the first time.
Soli Deo Gloria