I’ve been struggling with something recently, and it’s led me to pray differently.
Not all the time. Mostly at meals.
It’s happened because awhile back we spent time with some Christians in a foreign country who never prayed. I’m sure they did sometime, but not in our presence. They’d let us pray if we asked to, but that’s all. And it flumoxed me. It was curious and dissonance-producing and I wasn’t sure how I felt.
I was confused. I thought, “We’re Christians. We’re supposed to pray. It’s what we do.”
On our own, but also together. Out loud. At group devotions in the morning and at meals at the very least. It’s kind of a rule. Like brushing your teeth before bed, or saying please and thank you, or taking out the garbage.
Eventually, what I noticed about the people we had been with made me notice something about myself. The speck in my own eye if you will. I realized how rote my throughout-the-day prayers had become.
Predictable. Going through the motions.
We say the same thing. “Bless this.” “Be with them” (a phrase I hate). And “Thanks for that.”
It made me think, “What are we really doing when we pray before meetings, or at meals or whatever…? What does God desire?”
So I talked to God and my husband John, and processed for awhile. And during that time God used His word like a megaphone. It seemed like every time I opened the Bible I’d come across verses like:
Psalm 29:2 “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name.”
And Matthew 10:32 “Whoever publicly acknowledges me I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever publicly disowns me I will disown I will disown before my Father in heaven.”
Psalm 34:3 “Magnify the Lord with me. Let us exalt His name together.”
Magnify huh? Acknowledge what? Ascribe to who?
I have a condition called night blindness. It means I have no depth perception when I drive at night. I get disoriented easily. I’ve driven through stoplights and on the shoulder of the road. One dark night I was driving home from seminary and wasn’t paying attention. I made a wrong turn without realizing it and all of a sudden looked around and had absolutely no idea where I was. I couldn’t get my bearings. I’m beginning to think I (and maybe all of us) also have day blindness.
We need periodic reorientation so we don’t forget who we are (not God), and whose we are and where we are – far from our true home, dependent on the king of that kingdom.
I try to orient myself to God in the morning, but once the busyness of the day begins I’m at the center again, putting Him on the margins in my manic busyness. Treating God like He should revolve around ME. Through-the-day prayers are a chance to switch places back. Again. And again.
These through-the-day prayers with others are about stopping. More about submission than supplication. The wise men and the shepherds bowing before Jesus.
Re-orienting. Like a sailboat that’s drifted off-course, re-aligning sails to the wind.
Silence. Stillness. Pausing with others at lunch, in a coffee shop, in a meeting room…truly being present to God seems to be my best reminder to start with.
We get so wrapped up in the speed of the day that often those prayers at meals are “throw-aways”...a quick word because we’re “supposed to”, and not because we’re truly aware of returning to an awareness of the presence of God, ascribing to Him the glory due His name.
So, I’m trying. It’s not easy. But I find, like a sailor who has turned his rudder, I sometimes catch just a bit of breeze and feel the delight of the Holy Spirit.
Do you pray in public? Does it feel meaningful? Awkward? Pretentious? Rote?