Have you grown weary with prayer? Maybe somewhere along the way you heard or experienced that prayer was about negotiating with God to do certain things in very certain ways. Or maybe somewhere along the journey prayer just became about you getting what you thought you earned or deserved.
When it comes to your story, we think it’s worth grounding it in prayer. Here’s three simple [but not always easy] suggestions:
1. Get honest.
2. Lose the ego.
What does God want from you? God wants your heart and your raw, authentic feelings. It’s not about trying to convince God or others that you have it all together. God wants the real deal, the unfiltered version of who you are and where you find yourself whether it be in joy, in chaos, in celebration, or in struggle.
Throughout the scriptures we see something different being modeled in prayer. When Jesus prayed He was real and honest with the world around Him. He was brutally honest with God. Before Jesus was crucified, He went to the Garden of Gethsemane and threw Himself on the ground, sweating and pleading with God. He prayed, as referenced in Luke 22:42,”Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” As Jesus hung on the cross He screamed out, “Where are you…why have you forsaken me!” Jesus didn’t hold back: “God you are absent. In this moment you aren’t here! Why have you have abandoned me?”
Have you ever cried out, “God, where are you? I can’t make sense of this?” Have you been with people as they shake their fists and question everything in the universe while screaming “God, you aren’t here!”
Prayer is a place you can go and say exactly what you are feeling and there is no judgment on the other end. God can handle our anger and our weeping and our heartache. Remember Jeremiah’s prayer? “You deceived me, Lord…cursed be the day I was born [Jeremiah 20]!” Whoa! Yeah, Scripture invites us to deal with our internals when we pray. God is always on the other end rooting for our transformation and for the transformation of the world.
Or think of Psalm 150, the Hebrew word “hallelu” or “hallelujah” is used 10 times in this short Psalm…an overwhelming since of praise. Got some joy inside of you? Express it; let it out; celebrate! Prayer is about getting it all out–all of it! It’s about living the fullest and most authentic life possible with self, others, and God.
So go ahead, get honest with all your emotions and everything that’s inside of you. It’s good to celebrate in gratitude. It’s good to give voice to your pain; it’s okay to not have all the answers. This is about you losing your ego. So let’s talk about that for just a moment.
LOSE THE EGO
When we pray we are admitting that in the vastness of creation we aren’t seeing the whole picture; we might not be seeing the whole story. Remember Job from the wisdom text of the Old Testament? He was experiencing a tremendous amount of suffering. His friends came along and tried to give all the answers as to why this was happening to Job. God speaks: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth [Job 38:4]?” Your ego loves to tell you that you know it all, but you don’t.
We move beyond our ego when we are open to the deepest kind of transformation. We release our ego when we stay open to the God who is always creating something new. When we pray we join our voices with God to proclaim that a new day is possible, that death, heartache, and sorrow don’t always have the final word. Or when we pray we give thanks for our breath and all that is. When we lose the ego and pray we are recognizing that we can’t do it alone, that something greater is at work in us, through us, and all around us. When we pray we are groaning or rejoicing with the rest of creation. Simply put: prayer changes us.
As the philosopher and theologian, Soren Kierkegaard said: “The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.” So, how are you being transformed by prayer?
Lose the ego. There is so much freedom in knowing that you don’t have to have all the answers. When you lose the ego, you are surrendering. And transformation is always the result of surrendering.
Prayer helps us keep things in perspective. Prayer can help keep our minds and hearts in rhythm with God. But this requires a bit of surrendering.
The practice of prayer invites you to surrender: “Thy will be done, not mine.”
Prayer is about progress not perfection. Honesty and openness: two of the hardest things we can do when we pray. People find hope, healing and wholeness in this space. And we find these things inadvertently as a result of getting honest, losing the ego, and surrendering. These simple ideas allow us the grace and freedom to move our faith forward and move outside of ourselves.
Matthew 6:9-13 “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven…”Is it possible that we aren’t seeing the whole picture? We don’t know why some stories go one way and some stories go another way–some stories end in triumph, while others end in tragedy. We get that sometimes you don’t know how to pray. There may be times where you are at a complete loss for words.
Recently, we found ourselves in the ER with our four year old daughter. She complained all week of a stomach ache, and it later became so bad she couldn’t walk. Plus, she had an ongoing low grade fever for several days. So we finally decided to take her in at 10 o’clock on a Sunday night. As we waited on various test results, we grew more weary and exhausted. We thought it was her appendix. The doctors thought it was her appendix. The test results came back; her appendix was fine, but her white blood cell count was abnormally high. We didn’t know how to pray. It was our little girl lying there, and yet, we didn’t have the words to utter to God. Come to find out, it was a brutal viral intestinal infection. She’s fine…back to her spunky, outgoing, 4-year-old self again. Although we didn’t know how to pray in that moment, God knew our hearts. And we knew there were hundreds of people praying with us and for us. That was powerful. There is power in prayer.
We do know that when we pray we are joining with the same divine energy that created the universe. Have you ever felt someone’s prayers when they prayed for you? Of course you have! There is something profound about prayer that moves us beyond ourselves. It connects us to the deepest parts of the human experience.
If you are looking for a fresh way to experience prayer, practice these three things:
LOSE THE EGO.
See what happens.
Tami Canaday is the Founder of Project I am For You, and the Ambassador Director for Women of Faith. She leads the Women of Faith Prayer Circle and Ambassador community for a time of reflection and prayer on a private webinar every week; you are invited into the circle!
Join us as a Women of Faith Ambassador today: https://womenoffaith.com/ambassadors/
You can also move your faith forward by praying for and then hitting the “Like” button on the prayers submitted on our Women of Faith Instagram or Face Book page; plug in, make a difference, move beyond yourself and check out our weekly Wednesday Prayer Circle posts.
We are for you,
Tami & Ryan Canaday