For about the past month, I’ve been hearing an awful lot about the importance of prayer in a successful Spiritual Life. From the subtle comments from a friend to an entire sermon dedicated to the topic, I’ve learned of the importance of prayer, how prayer ought to be performed, methods of prayer or even received forms of reminders to pray like bookmarks or wristbands. However, I have my own thoughts on prayer and the purpose of this blogpost is to reveal the details of my own prayer life because if there’s anything that these things I’ve learned have taught me, it’s that my prayer life could afford to be a whole lot better.
To begin, I’ll bring about a memory from either May 2016, when I returned from Shasta Bible College (my second recorded testimony), or from May 2017, when I had just recovered from a bad roommate situation. As the previous sentence implies, I can’t remember exactly when it was but I remember that I was mentally [ahem] sane. ANYWAY, I remember that I was reorganizing my life and, namely, my spiritual life above all else.
Whilst doing so, I was at a point where I could prioritize prayer more easily because I was so thankful to God, either for the year at college and life as it was in early-to-mid-2016 or for rescuing me from the horrid roommate situation in 2017 or even the financial/social state I was in at the time (I had the most amazing friends; you’d be jealous, don’t try to convince me otherwise). I’ve noticed that when I talk to God more often, much like either of the situations in 2016 or 2017, it’s easier for me to set my eyes more toward the Lord rather than self. Since then, I’ve drifted to a point where God obviously recognizes that I must be reminded of this information.
Admittedly, I could be a little closer to Jesus in my walk with Him. I’ve been so distracted by things like social status, financial debt, or career selection that I’ve stripped God of those authorities because I foolishly believe that they would be better handled under my care. But Christopher, not even you care about yourself more than God does! I know that! Do you think I don’t know that? It’s just real easy to forget about the One that authored my entire being into existence when I don’t have a strong relationship with He that gives me life or, to be honest, when I don’t think about Him all too much.
I have a very close friend named Rachel that I can reveal my spiritual progress and/or struggles with and she with me. Recently, from what I observe anyway, her walk with God is a lot more prominent than mine. Whenever I discuss these topics with her, she’s always sure to mention the importance of prayer. She’s grown a stronger relationship with the pastor of First Baptist Church of South Lake Tahoe in the past few months than I’ve ever had with him in the past few years. I suspect that the doctrine of prayer was one of the first tools she was equipped with when beginning her relationship with God. She speaks so highly of it and, of course, prayer is an important factor in the spiritual life. In fact, it’s so important, Sierra Community Church found it worthy to dedicate a five-part series to the subject of prayer. While attending the evening service on the 22nd of April, I heard this sermon1.
If you follow the link, you’ll find a sermon by Pastor Dan Wilvers. In which, he teaches that prayer should be held as a conversation with the easiest person you could talk to. I don’t quite get what that means but I’ll get to that later. Wilvers actually warns against praying to God with archaic “old English” but to talk to God just as the one praying would talk to anyone else. This is another note I can recall Rachel telling me, “[talk with God] just as you and I are talking right now.” The week after Dan’s sermon, Pastor Noah Largent presented another sermon in the series on prayer.2 Before Pastor Noah began preaching, he literally began his sermon by noting his comment to Dan, “I kind of want to build off some of the things [Dan was] talking about.” Noah also teaches that prayer ought to be a part of every day life and begs the question, “why don’t people pray more?” I remember agreeing with a lot of the answers from his search. In addition to his advice on prayer, he advertises the complimentary bookmarks or bracelets that act as friendly reminders to pray.
After the sermon, I retrieved the bookmark only because the ratio concerning the number of bookmarks I have to the number of books I’m reading is probably 1:3. I also got a wristband that basically has the same reminders on it in less detail because I thought I could wear it with the other wristband I got in 2015 that reads, “God’s Not Dead Matthew 10:32-33” and that it might influence me to begin wearing my wristbands again (which it didn’t). Both the bookmark and the wristband advise of a sequence of prayer in which you should P.R.A.Y. That is, “Praise, Request, Admit, Yeild.” Helpful but the sequence I learned in my Spiritual Life class at college sticks closer to memory. “A.C.T.S.; Adoration, Confession, Thankfulness, Supplication/Intercession.” The bookmark even goes so far as to encourage a prayer schedule that describes how much and with whom one should pray to encourage a healthy prayer life. However, there seems to be no amount of discipline or friendly reminders that succeed in holding me anywhere near a consistent prayer life.
See, even though I can read the bookmark or even if I were to wear the wristband, it wouldn’t change anything. For example, when I try to “get back up” from one of my wandering sessions and try to get back to a life devoted to God, my whole character will change for the next few days. I’ll “dust myself off” by abstaining from my usual playlist (filled with music from Skrillex, Zedd, Daft Punk, The All-American Rejects or Krewella) and begin listening to my “Worship” playlist (filled with music from Skillet, Newsboys, Chris Tomlin, Lincoln Brewster or Chelsea Moon). I’ll dedicate myself to reading the Holy Bible more. Though I usually don’t have a starting point, I’ll read the chapter in which Faithlife’s verse of the day is located or flip randomly through pages and read what catches my eye. I might even try to say the occasional prayer by talking to a Guy inside my head for two to three minutes with the standard ACTS outline.
…But that’s not enough! It’s never enough!
There’s a few reasons I don’t pray, some of them were hit by Pastor Noah in his sermon on April 29, 2018. One of the notes that Noah hit, I want to extend on because it particularly hit home. ACTS or PRAY, although useful tools for remembering what to pray just seem a bit intimidating to me because they both imply that there has to be an order to prayer. When I talk with my friend, Max, we occasionally jot down a thought we want to come back to before continuing our discussion but it’s not like we organize our thoughts and discussions. To bring this back to my “personal” relationship with God, I don’t want to feel like I have to think about how I’m going to talk to Him because then it feels like homework. Honestly, if I have to illustrate what I’m going to say to a person, it’ll feel more like I’m writing a speech rather than casually talking to a friend. I don’t want to write speeches every night, who does? Moreover, if God wants to be my friend, if I should talk to God as a friend, I should want to talk to that friend, right?
The friend I spoke about earlier, Rachel, encourages me to speak to God as my best friend. Really, I am not afraid to share any detail of my life with her and she instructs that I should have that same closeness with God. She even recommends that, when I am alone, to actually pray aloud to God which is a practice not unheard of but still not necessarily conventional. After discussing why I should, she informs me it’s to encourage the acknowledgement of God’s presence in the room with me. Now, whenever I meet with her, whether it be for lunch, Bible study or even just a casual hang out, a prayer is usually said between the two of us in which I am comfortable speaking aloud. Both so she can hear what I pray and I actually find more comfortable talking to God in the presence of a friend because it feels a lot more like I would be talking to a third person or a second friend. However, if I am alone in my room, even if I am the only one in the house, I can’t force myself to talk to Him aloud. Perhaps it’s the “other man” in me, who doesn’t want me to grow in my relationship with God, who notices me speaking aloud to God, panics because of what it could do to my relationship with him and criticizes me, “Are you talking to yourself? Open your eyes! Look in front of you! There’s no one there! You’ve lost it! Stop this, retain your sanity and let the two of us continue in our closeness together. I won’t make you do anything you don’t want to do. See, I won’t make you look insane.” I’ve considered the thought that maybe I could pretend like I’m talking on the phone so that, even by some supernatural force, someone other than God can hear me talking to God, they’d just think I was talking to someone over the phone. …but I can’t do that! I’d never do that. First off, think of what that’d do to my relationship with God. It’d reveal that I’m embarrased to even talk to him privately. What’s more, it’d be another self-conscious thought: I’d know there’s no one on the other end of that telephone call. Vic, as I like to call him, would still be able to shame me into a closer relationship with him rather than a closer relationship with the eternal God of Heaven and Earth.
See, my views on prayer used to be that it was a responsibility. Now that I don’t publish them anymore, I can reveal that my series Prez and Commander3 was an allegory for my struggles with the sinful nature. Since Episode 1, I’ve expanded the “universe” and added characters like Joshua, Suzy, Lucinda, Penelope, or Deputy Reese. Chiefly, I wanted to explain how Joshua, in this illustration, is to represent the Holy Spirit whereas Vic (nicknamed, “Commander” for at one time he was commander over my life) represents the old nature. The two are constantly in rotation, which I’ve written about4, but the part I don’t write about is when I say prayers. A lot of the time, I’ll give consideration to how something I do would be illustrated in the Prez and Commander analogy. For instance, when I pray, I imagine Joshua at his desk, acting as a stenographer, typing everything Mr. President says in an email addressed directly to the president of Chrianty (that is, the “President” of Christianity)5. I used to believe that prayer was similar to an email to God. One in which a reply would not be expected.
In light of the things mentioned to me by either Rachel or the sermons at Sierra Community Church, I now realize that prayer should be more of a casual conversation with God rather than something I have to do. I should want to talk with God in every circumstance of my life. An ongoing conversation with him all throughout the day. At the end of the day or before it begins, maybe I should PRAY but talking with God should not be a duty, rather it should be a conversation with the Heavenly Character that literally programmed my heart to be the way it is. I should be open and honest with Him and feel free to talk to Him rather than carefully choosing my words, as I once did, because He already knows how I normally talk. In that respect, He should be the easiest Person I could ever talk to because no matter what I’ve done to Him or even how I occasionally forget Him, He still loves me. Should I not, at the very least, want to just talk to Him? Of course, I should have a tremendous amount of respect for Him but if He wants a relationship with me, who am I to say that I don’t want the very same?
Romans 5:8 (NASB95): But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
1I’m almost certain the recording is actually from the morning service but the sermon is the same for morning and evening.
2Talk With God at Home, Part 3: Who Do You Think You Are Talking To?
3Episode 1; series publically discontinued due to obscure timeline (still in production, mentally)
4Prez and Commander: The Way Back [coming soon, but my second favorite behind Sue’s Whereabouts
5Romans 8:28 suggests that “we do not know how to pray as we should” but teaches the Spirit’s intercession.