Slowly but surely I’m learning talking to God doesn’t have much to do with talking. 

Ten years ago if you would have talked to me about my prayer life or my relationship to God it would have been a very short conversation. While I was brought up in the Methodist church and attended fairly regularly I didn’t have much of a relationship with Him.

Over the past ten years that’s changed. Not lightning bolt-hallelujah-holy-cow changed but gradually. It started with just getting involved volunteering once a month or so and progressed when I was asked if I’d consider heading up a little committee of guys who set up the worship space every week (we meet in a school). I did that and enjoyed getting to know the men in the church and connected a little more. That led to going on some youth mission trips along with our kids and then joining a small group. Like I said this has all been pretty slow but I’ve done a lot of things with the church and served on several committees.

I guess I would have considered myself fairly religious through all this but I wasn’t a daily prayer person. I knew that this was something that if you thought about it was kind of silly. If I was a person of faith and a believer in God why would I not talk to him on a regular basis? I’m sure part of the answer to that question was I still thought I was doing this whole life thing on my own. God was good and all that and a comfort to me when I was down especially when I struggled with depression (boy did we have some talks then) but I didn’t really bring him into my everyday life. Finally about a year or so ago I decided that this had gone on long enough and I was going to pray every day, but when? I had tried the whole pray before you go to bed and did that when I was down or to quiet my mind when I struggled with insomnia (yep, have that too) but typically I was shredded from the day, my focus sucked and my mind wandered. I didn’t get much talking done. Then I arrived at a simple solution, pray on the way to work.

Here was a time when I was awake, relatively alert, and alone and I had 10-15 minutes without distractions (other than driving of course, so pray but with your eyes wide open) and I could pray out loud and people assumed I was talking hands free on my phone. Brilliant! I said prayers of thanks, prayers for folks that were ill, prayers for my day or how I was doing that day and acknowledged Jesus Christ as my savior. It was a good old fashioned by-the-book prayer and it worked for a number of months. It lifted me up, pointed out where I should be grateful and got my focus off my troubles (if I was down in the dumps) by praying for others who were dealing with a lot more than I was. So, all in all, a great experience.

Sometime in the last two or three months though something has been happening with my daily prayers. Almost by chance (Yeah, I know, probably not by chance at all. C’mon, I said “almost”) I’ve stopped talking and not wrapped up with “Amen” after I’ve gone through my prayers. I’ve just sort of sat there in the silence and been “in” the prayer. This hasn’t been something I’ve done on purpose. I haven’t set out to change my prayers to include contemplative prayer. Heck, contemplative prayer was something I didn’t even know about until my best friend who is in the Jesus business told me about it. The deal is it makes some sense to shut up and listen once in a while, especially when you’re praying. You wouldn’t be having much of a “conversation” if all you did was talk at someone, now would you? I sure don’t think it would make for much of a relationship either.

No, a true relationship means you give and you receive. Up to this point what I’ve been doing mostly is just giving. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced a one-sided relationship where all you do is give but it gets old even if your giving is done freely. It also robs the one on the other side of the table of any kind of opportunity to give to you. I’m no relationship expert (just ask my spouse) but this isn’t a good way to build one. So I’ve decided, on this Thursday, to quit talking so dang much. I’m going to purposely shut up and listen.

I don’t know what I’ll hear or that I’ll hear anything but I think I owe it to the man upstairs to give him a chance to speak after all this time. I hope that my shutting up says to Him that I’m ready to take some instruction, some advice and I’m ready to stop doing this life thing all on my own. I figure that’s probably what he’s wanted all along.

This might sound sort of “Duh!” obvious but prayer is a pretty big deal if you consider yourself spiritual. But I think we miss that point a lot. I’m interested how you do it and how it works for you. Since I’m a newbie on this whole listening thing if you have some wisdom to impart, lay it on me in the comments below, I’d sure appreciate it.

Our pastor, Craig Finnestad, has written a book of prayers, Prayers from the water’s edge. It’s an awesome collection of daily prayers that might help you if you’re just starting this whole prayer thing. Click on the title above if you want to pick up a copy.

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