How Do You Know If Your Prayers Work?
I've been thinking about prayer a lot lately.
Confession: Most of my thoughts on prayer seem to tend toward whether I'm doing it right or not.
Because of my church-y baggage, I have this nagging notion that if my prayers aren't formed correctly, somehow God won't hear them.
It's irrational, I know. But it's there, and that stuff is hard to shake, friends.
You see, I prefer to pray by writing down my thoughts. The act of putting pen to paper and actually seeing the words appear as a result, makes the prayer more real to me. Sometimes, I'll even pause for a moment when I'm writing, and read the words I just wrote again.
I might even read them out loud.
Back to my worries over whether I'm praying rightly...
Whether my prayer was correctly formed and able to pass muster when it comes to God's prayer-filter (I made that last thing up--because God must have a filter, right?) is a thing that passes through my mind more often than I'd like to admit.
"You didn't kneel by your bed and fold your hands." A voice in my head will tell me as I read out loud the barely legible scribble on my journal page.
"You didn't pray an ACTS prayer," another voice chimes in.
You know the acronym for "ACTS" prayers, right? Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. It's a format for praying that lots of Christians lift up as a right, proper and biblical way to pray.
And there I sit, staring at my slightly ink smeared fingers and holding my favorite gel pen... and I begin to feel like the outpourings of my heart weren't good enough. After all, God couldn't possibly acknowledge such a clumsy communication.
Even though I know better, those voices will get me believing that there wasn't any real purpose in my prayers. It was just an exercise in trying to make myself feel better. God is going to do what God is going to do, after all. Or not.
Why bother? Why go through all of this? Why even try to connect, to write, to share, to let my thoughts bend toward God, to ask for help...?
I read a great quote from author Sarah Bessey the other day:
Prayer has become a way of holding space for all that is broken in this world while my hands work toward creating a bit of cleanliness, a bit of order, a bit of beauty and life and healing around me.I have come to understand that prayer is all of this and more for me. It is definitely a way to hold space for the brokenness in the world, and in my own life. It is a way for me to articulate my joys and pain, and to frame them in something larger and more substantial than my frail ego.
But I've come to believe there is more. Prayer for me has also become a way of listening. I find in the midst of my scribbling that there are flashes of inspiration, hints of peace. There are words that come from places I had either forgotten or buried. I feel more alive and aware.
And when I am alive and aware, I feel more connected to the world around me, to the people in my life and to the Divine presence in, through and all around us.
It's also in those moments that my ears seem to be tuned more clearly to God's frequency. The messages, the answers, the words of comfort and even of affliction find their way to me. And I feel as though my eyes have been opened enough to catch glimpses of God at work in the world.
May you enter into prayer today without fear of whether you are doing it right... without the worry that God is listening. May your senses be heightened and attuned to God's frequency. And may you hear. And may you see.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.