Before beginning this blog, I added all the blogs I follow to the blogroll on the right. If anyone who reads my blog has one, I’d love to read and follow it, just let me know where it’s at. also click here to listen to the Jesus the Drunk sermon from last week’s blog. Thanks John for getting it uploaded!!

I have this bad problem with prayer — I don’t do it nearly enough. I’ve been thinking about writing this topic for a while, and just decided to go ahead and do it, but to be honest, this is one of the struggles I am most embarrassed about. I’ve kind of chickened out. Before I continue, I’ll post the parts of the Sermon on the Mount about prayer:

Matthew 6:5-15

5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.9 “This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Matthew 7:7-12

7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

There are certainly other parts of sermon that I thought of that I could write about, but I feel like they are a little bit more of a stretch than these two, so I’m just sticking with these two.

Prayer is one of the defining actions in the Christian life, but I struggle with it so much. Jesus says not to shout my prayers on the street corners, trying to get attention for myself. Not a problem. Jesus says don’t babble, expecting that God will hear me more if I talk more. Easy. That’s about where the end of the easy part of prayer is for me. Every time I pray, I shouldn’t have to really think to remember the last time I prayed — It should be so recent that I can recall without trying.

It is not that I am against praying or that I don’t believe prayer works, but more simply I forget. I don’t know what that says about me; that I’m prideful, that I don’t trust God, or what. I think I pray most often at meal times; which is kind of sad, because I’m mostly asking for blessings.

It seems like other people just have this awesome connection with God and a great gift of prayer. I don’t feel that all. I feel more like I’m talking to a brick wall; I try my best to have hope that God hears my prayers and will answer them, but time and time again if I get an answer, it always seems to be ‘no’. I remind myself of the passage from Matthew 7 and of passages like John 14:13-14, where Jesus promises to do anything I ask in his name to glorify God. I pray for one thing in particular (that I might describe in more detail sometime in the future), one thing I, by far, want more than anything else, and I tell myself that there is no way that this desire wouldn’t glorify God — I want him to take away, by name, the very thing that gives me doubt, that keeps me feeling like God’s enemy rather than his son — and for years, the answer has always been ‘no’. How could this not be God’s will?

I think my biggest problem with prayer in the past is that I think of these great promises and I then I get let down. I’ve done what Jesus said, I’ve locked myself in my room and prayed, cried, and begged God for days. Then at the end, nothing is different. I slowly lose hope as time goes by and I feel ignored again when I see that nothing is different. I get depressed, and it’s hard to get up the courage to ask again.

I also have a hard time with praying in a group. I know we’re all praying to the same God, but I feel really awkward doing it. Since I don’t always eat alone (thank God) and I’m part of a Bible study, feeling awkward praying in a group is a pretty bad thing. I know this isn’t what is meant by praying on the street corner, but as I listen to other people pray, I often wonder how much of it is actually a genuine prayer, and how much is just for show. I shouldn’t judge other peoples’ prayers, especially if I admit that I rarely pray, but it doesn’t seem like many people pray out loud how they would if they were silent. They try to be eloquent, much more so than when  they are just talking, and that always distracts me. I wonder if they are trying to impress me; “See how good I am at praying!,” which is what I think Jesus is saying in the Matthew 6 or if they are genuinely asking God for everything they can think of, with the knowledge that God will give good gifts like promised in Matthew 7.

Either way, I get distracted, and frankly, bored when people start praying in a group setting and just keep going. It is a very rare occasion that a prayer takes me more than 30 seconds, and eventually I just tune whoever’s praying out when they are still praying 5 minutes after starting, giving a sermon while praying, and want a group of 8 people to take turns praying out loud after they finish. I seem to be put in that situation on a regular basis, and it kind of drives me crazy.

I feel like I have to pray in that situation, but I really don’t want to. I know some people would say that it is the Holy Spirit compelling me to pray, but I really don’t think so. My Father knows what I need before I ask him, so I don’t need everyone to hear my prayers for God to know them. I feel like that compulsion to pray is really more just a desire to conform to the social norm. I HATE that. If there is one thing I really dislike about sociology, it is that it has ruined my own religion for me — I see everything about it through the eyes of a sociologist, and this whole thing seems like a really bad thing through those eyes.

I pretty rarely pray in group settings because of this. I feel like if I just pray because it will conform to the group or because I feel like I have to, I don’t. I don’t feel like I am embarrassed or scared to pray in a group. But I feel like I have to pray a certain way, with a certain eloquence that just isn’t me.

That’s one thing I really like about The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6. It isn’t eloquent, it isn’t long, and he doesn’t ask everyone to take a turn in a round. It’s simply (in my words): ‘God, you’re great. Let your will be done. Take care of me as I take care of others. Protect me from sin.’ Jesus says all he needs to say without babbling, without keeping attention on himself, without being the focus of his prayer.

So, why can’t I do that?