Prayer, Part 1: Of Astronauts and Voicemail

I don’t like praying. I have so much focus when I pray, it takes something serious to distract me, like the kitchen fan, the sound of my apartment settling, or an empty cough drop wrapper falling from my table. I know I should pray more, but I will take any opportunity to avoid it that I can. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of asking for prayers, or for telling people I would pray for them, though the latter may be as much due to the fact I know I’ll probably forget to pray for them.

So when Globalscope asked me to pray about my time abroad and for the ministry every day for a week, I got a little worried. Seriously, praying about something every day of the week freaked me out. As I went through the week, I read Matthew 6, and started thinking about what prayer means, and whether I was approaching it correctly. I had two primary questions, first, “is prayer boring?” and second, “what should prayer look like?” This post will address the first of these.

The first question on my mind was the obvious and somewhat childish, “is prayer boring?” As I thought about it, I realized how absolutely absurd that question is. We are talking about an intimate conversation with the Creator whose conversation caused life, a personal discussion with the One whose declaration decreed persons. Most people would jump at the opportunity to have a conversation with Buzz Aldrin, because it would be really, really cool to talk to someone who landed on the moon (did I mention this would be cool? Some people think it’s exciting I’m going to another country, he left the earth!). That’s external referent power: we like them for their experiences and events external of them. Now imagine that effect, times infinity (and beyond).

Psalms 139:7-8 says “where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” (NIV) This isn’t some fuzzy idea of omnipresence, it is an acknowledgment that God is there, wherever “there” is. Moon landing? Check. Signing of the Magna Carta? Check. Creation of everything? He’s got the t-shirt. Neither is He just a passive observer, as throughout the Bible we are told of how His hand was involved in human events.

Now internal referent power is a person’s ability to  attract others based on their personality and traits. Since the Bible says that all good gifts come from God (James 1:17), then it must be that all good traits come from Him. And as we are made in His image, our traits must be either reflections or perversions of His. We are merciful because He is first merciful, and we are just because He is first just. Thus, it cannot be for lack of interesting character or sympathetic nature that we do not speak to Him.

If God isn’t boring, then why are we bored in prayer? I think the answer is we pray by speaking to God rather than speaking with God. Daniel, one of the other counselors at the church camp I helped with this summer would ask before group prayers, “alright, I’ll dial, but who’s going to hang up?” We would always laugh, and then after an awkward silence, one of us would volunteer as tribute. Daniel would start the prayer, and we would pray for the camp, campers, and one another, then whoever had volunteered closed the prayer. We’re all familiar with the idea of prayer being a phone call, but I think we take that for granted and treat it more like voicemail. Seriously, if we made phone calls the way we pray, our friends would hate us.

Kody, I want to ask that you come here tonight. I just, I want you to help us, Kody brah. If you would be around, and just get the paint supplies, Kody, just get them and bring them here, man. Open doors, Kody, your doors, the doors you have in front of you, and just, walk through them, Kody. Man, open doors and bring the paint to us, brah. Kody, I just, thanks, k bye.

If you did this, Kody probably wouldn’t be bringing you the paint.

In all seriousness though, when you call a friend, you normally don’t talk the whole time, especially when the friend is wiser than you, and if you’re asking for something, you don’t just hang up. How often do we do this in prayer? It’s like we’re leaving a voicemail message, as if there’s some heavenly answering machine, “leave your prayers and intercessions at the tone, beep“. We hurt ourselves when we do this, because we turn prayer from conversation to mere communication.

So how should we pray? I don’t have the complete answer to that, but in Part Two, we’ll look at some Scripture addressing prayer!

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