On prayer

I've learned a lot about prayer since Ellis was born.   He only has one mama to pray for him!  My prayer life is in inconsistent.  My mind can travel the world and back in five minutes when I sit down to pray (and it's how most of my grocery lists get written!)  If I was going offer any prayers for Ellis at all, it was time for a much needed change plus a lot more intention. 

So I added a couple of things into my life to help me.  I started a prayer list, which I sometimes remember I have (no more excuses!).  I pray Scripture (so easy and convenient and powerful!).  I pray things that other people have written (better than what I can come up with!).  And I have a couple of books (does it count if I haven't read them yet?).

Several things have happened.  First,  I noticed is that my prayers for Ellis often turn into prayers for myself.  I can pray that Ellis will have a spirit of generosity but remember my own stingy heart.  I start praying for his heart to be "good soil" that will bear good fruit and then realise that's it's my job to sow and water it.  It can get discouraging.  But I know that I can't change my son's heart, because only God can.  And I'm so glad that's not my job.  God loves him more and has bigger hopes and dreams for Ellis than I ever could.

Second, I think about how I pray.  Even my prayers for others are mostly selfish, I decided, and mostly for my own convenience.  Like praying for Ellis to take a long nap today or to cooperate while we're out.  The apostle Pauls' prayers have really challenged me and I wonder what would happen if I asked for the things he did, or if I spoke them like I really believed them.  Paul didn't waste his words with petty prayers.  Not that I can't ask God for little things, but I don't think I ask Him for enough BIG things.  Paul prayed for things like the knowledge of his will and for a pure heart, good conscience, and a sincere faith. He didn't pray for trouble and trials be taken away in life, but for faith in the midst of them.  Praying like Jesus means praying for Ellis to take up his cross and lose his life so that he can find it (Matt 10:38-39).  All of this has forced me to think about what I actually want - should- ask God for.  For an easy, comfortable life?  Or for one that honours and glorifies him?

I know people that are really good at prayer.  They know exactly the right things to say and it seems like they are praying all the time.  I know people that pray out loud during chit-chat and every day conversations.  I admire them and want to learn to them.  And I know that they would never claim to be experts at prayer.  It seems that the deeper their faith gets, the less set on formality they become.  Prayer just becomes a part of their day.  They don't stop what they're doing, they can change a poopy diaper or wash dishes at the same time.  Praying is breathing.  I love a good chance to multitask!

I once read that when it comes to prayer, we're all beginners.   Jesus is clear that he doesn't care about how many words you say or how fancy they are.  Prayer is mostly listening to God, anyway.  I'm a little bit more disciplined when it comes to prayer than I was a year ago, but I'm still no good at it.  But I'm grateful that it doesn't matter to the One I pray to.

I published this post and then unpublished it because I thought it may have sounded pretentious.  But in the end I think that since I have learned everything I know from other people, I didn't want to keep the goodness to myself.  I think that prayer itself is humbling because it makes you realise how much you need it and can't live without it.  CS Lewis said it best:

"I pray because I can't help myself.  I pray because I'm helpless.  I pray because the need flows out of me all the time - waking and sleeping.  It does not change God.  It changes me."  Amen.

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