For some reason, I have this idea that my prayers need to be long and well thought out. I need to make sure to cover all the prayer requests I know of, and to use the "prayer language" I grew up with which includes a certain way of beginning -- "Dear God" or "Dear Heavenly Father" and then moves on to asking for forgiveness and then quoting Scripture, than Thanksgiving, and then close it all out appropriately with "In Jesus name, Amen." And I must do this with reverence, with head bowed, usually while seated, and at home or in church. Certainly not while running or driving in my car or working out at the gym. I could blame my Baptist upbringing on this rigid idea of prayer; that's an easy place to start, but not entirely fair. There are probably multiple factors.
Lately, I've been trying something different.
I have been praying simple prayers.
This week my prayers have sounded like this:
"Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief."
"God, this day is yours. Guide me through it."
"God, give me the words to say or shut me up."
"God, encourage me."
"Lord, help me to be a channel of your grace."
One line and then straight to Amen.
Usually, before I pray, often in the mornings, I think, "OK, I've got to section off a good chunk of time and not be distracted and make sure that I pray for everyone I can remember who is sick or suffering and then also make sure that I pray for my church and for my neighbors and the poor and of course MYSELF, oh goodness, there is a lot to pray for there, where do I even begin..." and by then I am so tangled up and concerned, that I think
I do believe at that point, without sounding like a "Devil see-er" that the "dark side" or "the evil powers that be" (OK, now I sound like a Sci-Fi fan) - are really hard at work. I can hear their little gravely, cackling, conniving voices...(Forgive me, I have a vivid imagination)
"Yeah, Hope, why pray? I mean, really! You didn't give yourself enough time. And there is so much to remember. Do it later, or hell, don't do it at all. God expects more from you. How can you come to him like this? For badness sake, your still in your sweatpants? I mean, look at you? And you know that half way through your prayer, your mind will wander or the dog will bark and you will just give up. So really. Why bother?"
And sometimes those little devils win.
Other times, lately, they haven't.
Because I have been OK with my little prayers.
I pray when I think of it. Maybe 5 minutes, maybe 5 seconds, maybe 5 words -- sometimes in the morning, sometimes while driving, sometimes spoken only in my head in the middle of a meeting.
And you know what?
God hears my little prayers.
He has been answering them in miraculous ways.
He has helped my unbelief.
Shut me up.
And given me opportunities to be a channel of his grace.
Now, I'm not saying that long sessions of prayer, or pious prayer is not important. I'm just saying that I am not there yet. And I am not going to let my little prayers go "un-lifted" just because I'm not sure they meet "minimum word count" in my own legalistic mind.
I am going to lift these little prayers and lift them often. Maybe someday I'll be ready for heavy lifting, but for now, I'm a lightweight. The good news is God listens and responds in BIG ways to little prayers made in faith.
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