Prayer is a Relationship
by PASTOR SCOTT SWIX
Hope Community Church
“Oh, God, please HELP with ____.” (Fill in the blank here—job, wife, husband, health, school, kids, mortgage, loved one, fear of flying, etc.)
That’s a very popular prayer indeed, and has been for thousands of years. It’s often combined with “if you do, I will ____.” (Fill in this blank too, such as “never do it again,” “start going to church again,” “become a monk/pastor/priest,” etc.)
Yeah, that’s a common prayer combination. Hey, we are human, and usually a bit self-absorbed, and tend to turn to God when are in a spot of trouble. And that’s not all bad. While making “deals” with God is discouraged, God encourages us to ask for help. There are lots of great examples of that in the Bible.
Then again, is that the only time we talk to God? If it is, or if the rest of our prayer life is just a short nightly Lord’s Prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep…” a Hail Mary, or something similar, then we really should ask ourselves, “How does God feel about that?” How would we feel if someone claimed to be our friend, our really, really good friend, and the only time they called was when they needed something? Or, maybe they occasionally call really quickly, like a Facebook status post, and simply say, “I did this today” and then hang up. That’s a pretty one-sided and disappointing relationship. But it is an easy habit to fall into. Most of us tend to want God to be there when we need God, and want God to listen and answer our prayers, and then… well, then we’d really like to get back to our own life until we hit the divine 911 again. Listening to God takes time, and there’s always the risk God might actually say something that I don’t want to hear. It doesn’t take much to admit that God probably doesn’t find that a very fulfilling relationship.
The really sad part, perhaps, isn’t that God is disappointed; it is that we are short-changing ourselves. Our own bad habit keeps us from God’s blessings. God wants to be part of our lives, wants to hear about our day, both good and bad. God wants to share with us too, and needs some time for the Holy Spirit to speak to us, give us some ideas, wisdom and guidance. When we call God, spin out our quick prayer, and hang up, we don’t give God a chance to even answer, except on our terms, on our timeline, and with the answer that we already want. Then we wonder why it didn’t work, and think that God doesn’t answer prayers. Meanwhile, God might be trying to share a really great idea, or a new plan, something wonderful, but we don’t take the time to listen.
So consider slowing down, just a little bit at least. Pray when you don’t “need” to. Take some time to listen. If you don’t “know how to pray,” give a call to a pastor or maybe someone you know who does have a good prayer life, and explore different ways to pray to find one that best fits you. There’s 2,000 years of Christian prayer, including walking, silent, journaling, artistic, structured, freeform, visual, and so many more. Try some, share some time with God, and see what happens. Odds are really good that your stress levels will drop, you’ll be healthier, happier and start to have a sense of where God is calling you. And you’ll likely see better how God does answer prayers, but not always the way we want. But that’s OK, because you’ll better understand it’s not all about God doing what we want, but us becoming what God dreams we can be.