What is the reason to pray? We come to God in prayer for many things. We ask for wisdom, for guidance, for understanding, for others’ welfare, for peace, for acceptance. We share our blessings, our gratitude, our love, our humility. Sometimes our prayers seem to be answered and other times ignored. So what then is the purpose for prayer? If we don’t get the results we expected for our prayers, what makes us keep praying?
For me, prayer is not about outcomes, but about a relationship with God. Prayer is a way to keep my heart open to all that God displays around me and sends into my path. When I pray for someone to be cured, I don’t know for certain if that will happen. But what I do know is that God heard me. And that God’s love will surround that person no matter what outcome.
Prayer is the foundation of my relationship with God. I empty my heart to him and he pours his spirit into me. Through prayer, I can be reflective about my life and my choices. Through prayer, I can hear the needs of others and respond. Through prayer, I can see the God in someone else. Through prayer, I can bring his heart to this messy world.
My prayers are not a child’s list to Santa for all that I want in this world. It is my way of letting God know I will keep listening for him and know he is listening for me. As long as I have breath.
What is the reason you keep praying?
Finding our spiritual heart is a journey made of all our days, even when we are unaware that we are moving. Do you remember when you first contemplated the concept of prayer? I remember sitting in church as a small child of three or four trying to decide the best way to fold my hands in prayer. The adults around me were no help because none of them did it the same way. I didn’t think just putting your hands in your lap looked right – I was told a lady’s hands always belonged in her lap when sitting. Of course I was a tomboy who didn’t sit much, so it was a bit lost on me. Still it seemed too ordinary for something like talking to God. I tried putting my hands flat together. But I got distracted by all the different formations I could do with my fingers and decided I needed something that would help me pay better attention. God deserved my attention. Because I grew up in a Presbyterian church, raising hands high to God in prayer was something I knew nothing about, so at that preschool moment, it wasn’t an option. I put my hands together with my fingers interlocked. I felt connected to myself, as if all that was in me was flowing together. I looked up at the sunlight splashing across the stained glass and knew I had found my best way to put my hands in prayer. I said a silent thank you because my Sunday School teacher had just told us that prayers should always start with thanks.
So many decades later, I have been exposed to all sorts of prayers and ways to pray in all sorts of houses of worship. I wish I could fling my hands high and pray, to reach out to God. I have tried. But I find myself feeling self-conscious in the unnatural movement and lose my focus on the prayer. And so God and I commune, my fingers interlocked and I start with thanks.
I have read many books, blogs and articles. I have listened to many songs and shared many conversations about prayer. I pick up little pieces as I go and like the tomboy I was, I stuff them into my prayer pocket. Reminders of my encounters with the God in others.
How has your prayer life evolved? Did it start like mine in a wooden church pew in a small town church with sparkling stain glass? Did it come to you in a Sunday School class or a youth group outing? Has it traveled to you on a lakeside path or on a noisy street corner? Did you encounter it during quiet minute on a winter’s afternoon, the sun hanging low in the sky? Did it come in a quiet whisper in a commuter train or stuck in traffic? Did it prop you up in a hospital waiting room or comfort you in the face of grief?
I didn’t know all those many years ago, when I couldn’t even see over the pews, that I was starting a hand holding relationship of prayer and listening with God. It hasn’t always been steadfast, I have often not held up my end, but like any relationship that really matters, when I return, we pick up where we left off. I start with thanks.