Ask anyone what their prayer life is like, and they will probably respond with a sentence that has the word “should” or “ought” or “could” in it somewhere.
“I should probably spend more time in prayer.”
“I probably ought to do better about spending time with God.”
“I could definitely pray more regularly.”
So I’m here today to tell you seven easy steps to praying like a champ . . . just kidding. That’s what TV preachers are for. Quite frankly, I still struggle to fully understand the complexities of prayer, but I do think I recently had a small breakthrough in the way I see it.
The insight came while I was driving my car and I began saying a prayer in between putting on my blinker and taking a left into the grocery store parking lot. Actually, I don’t even know if it’s fair to say that I actually said a prayer. I was definitely talking out loud to God, but I had that sound in my voice like someone who’s on the phone talking to you, but you can tell they’re watching TV at the same time.
Regardless, as I drove and somewhat absentmindedly talked to God about something that was bothering me, the thought came to my mind, “You know you really should/ought to/could do a lot better at this prayer thing. I mean, is this the best you can do? You’re just going to burp up a little shout out to Jesus while you’re driving? Seriously, you’re probably not doing much better than talking to yourself.”
These thoughts did not inspire me to continue talking to God as I looked for parking, so I decided to just stop trying to pray until I could find time to pray a real prayer.
And then I remembered the scripture, “Pray without ceasing,” (1 Thess. 5:17) which I take to mean that our hearts should be in non-stop communion with God.
“Hold up,” I thought, “if I’m supposed to pray without ceasing, then prayer is going to have to happen in the middle of every day life, like when I’m trying to find a parking spot.
“Distraction is just going to be part of the package sometimes when I’m in the midst of non-stop communion with God.”
That day, as I looked for a place to stop the car, I felt the confidence to go ahead and pray while driving in the grocery store parking lot.
These thoughts about prayer in the midst of the practicalities of life brought me back to a peculiar conversation I had with a very serious, older gentleman I knew back in college. We were talking about the presence of God, and the man quite earnestly said to me, “Oh, I know that God is always with me – except when I’m in the bathroom, of course.”
I never fully understood that man’s reason for believing God’s abiding presence does not extend into bathrooms, but after I took the time to reflect on the idea that the prayer to God should never cease, I thought, “Hey, forget parking, next time I’m in the bathroom, unlike my friend from college, I can boldly pray there too.”
Believe me, I’m certain that getting still and reverent before the Lord will most certainly draw us closer to His thoughts and His heart. I know this based on experience, though I oddly find myself avoiding the pursuit of quieter moments like these.
Nonetheless, thanks to the command to “pray without ceasing,” I parked my car that day knowing, like I had never known before, that God just wants to be with us, in the middle of it all, wherever we are – even in the bathroom and despite our resistance to quieting ourselves before Him.
Welcome to our messy lives, Lord.