I’m just A Bad Pray—er.

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It became very clear to me this week that I have a prayer problem.  I have very casual conversations with God all day long.  I silently pray both in the morning and at night.  I admit, sometimes I even pray out loud when I’m alone driving in my car.  I justify it be telling myself that everyone must assume I’m talking with someone using Bluetooth.  Of course they may just think I’m crazy too.  I’m sure that probably happens as well.  But crazy isn’t the problem.  Nor is my constant, private, secret, little prayer time with God.  The problem lies right before dinner. 

Recently, I decided it would be nice if my husband and I prayed before we ate.  So the other day, I told Patrick that I thought we should start saying grace as we hadn’t before.  He said he was up for it and then quickly nodded his head in my direction as an indication that he was ready for me to lead us in prayer.  So, I bowed my head, closed my eyes, and much to my surprise, my heart started pounding and a bit of anxiety set in.  I can best describe my emotion as similar to stage fright.  “What will I say?” I wondered. In a panic, I ever so quickly sped through the usual, “Lord thank you for the food we’re about to receive in Jesus name, Amen.”  And then we began to eat.  Even in the first few minutes following the prayer I felt a little awkward.  I tried to examine the reasons for my fear and then noticed a bit of embarrassment creeping in. I quickly asked God for forgiveness and distracted myself from this mental chatter by starting a meaningless conversation with Patrick about the freshness of the string beans.

The next day, while having my usual Wednesday Bible study with my Pastor at Barnes and Nobel, he did something that nearly knocked me off my chair.  Before we began to study, instead of taking the lead in prayer, he gestured for me to do it. Without a moment’s notice, I politely refused.  Laughing it off by saying, “Oh no, please, it’s all you, go ahead.”  He quickly took the initiative and led us in prayer the same way he always does.  He proceeded to pray very conversationally, very openly and in a succinct and direct manner he thanked God for our opportunity to study together and then requested that God increase our faith and understanding.  And in the same way I always do, I sat silently, incredibly grateful and at the same time a bit envious.  I thought, “I wish I could pray like that.  He’s so confident when talking to God.”

When he was finished, I immediately caught his eye and nervously blurted what was racing through my mind “I’m not good at praying!  I don’t know why, Pastor?  Maybe it’s because I don’t know what to say.  And I can’t pray at home before dinner with my husband either.  I mean, I’m doing it but it doesn’t feel right.  Pastor, I must admit something.  I’m a bad pray—er.” It felt so wonderful to openly confess my sin to him. In his typical understanding manner and with his incredibly warm and genuine smile he chuckled and said, “You write a blog publicly proclaiming Christ, you talk to all your family members and friends incessantly about your walk with God, we talk in depth here together, but you can’t pray a simple prayer in front of people?  Don’t worry, there are no art thou’s, oh lord of lords needed.  Just talk to Him like you talk to me.”  He pointed out the absurdity of my fear in such a nonjudgmental and empathetic manner I couldn’t help but laugh at myself.   I knew he was right.  I had nothing to be afraid of. 

So now, when I go to the table for dinner, I do my best to slowly say my prayer: “God, thank you for this food we’re about to receive, and God thank you so greatly for the happiness and love we share.”   I hope to one day have complete confidence in leading any conversation directed to or about God.  But for now, I’ll continue flexing that prayer muscle before dinner time until it’s strong like bull!

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