Does Prayer Have to Be Complicated?

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I don’t remember the first time I talked to God, but I remember the moment I decided prayer was personal.

It’s funny how you don’t recall most of life when you’re three or four years old, but you can have these few vivid memories that play back like a well-worn movie.

I don’t remember how I knew my father had left us.  I don’t remember how I felt about the whole ordeal of divorce.

But I sat on a swing-set in my backyard one day when I was about four and I said this,

“God, You’ll have to be my Daddy now.”

That I remember.

And prayer has always been that for me, not some awkward attempt to wax poetic before a stern God.  I’ve never felt like my prayers have to ‘measure up’ or ‘sound holy.’

Because it’s always just been me, a simple girl talking to Dad about life on a swing-set, about making tough decisions, about life as a mom, about life….

I found a prayer journal years ago with categories and lists, a calendar of prayer planning, verses and notes, bookmarks, quotes, all spiral bound for easy writing.

I’m a little surprised that it didn’t light up or play music.

But the thing about that super-duper-deluxe journal is that I never could use it.  All those bells and whistles complicated prayer, made it so cumbersome and bulky.

I’d been chatting with God all day, every day for decades, and I couldn’t cram all that intimacy into a multi-step method in this how-to of prayer.

Maybe formulas and fancy systems work for you.

Or perhaps you’re like me, who simply wants prayer to be communion with God, the recognition of His presence here in this place.

Samuel Chadwick wrote:

“The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying.  He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion.  He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray” Samuel Chadwick

There’s such power in this prayer, and yet too often we avoid it and neglect it because we over-complicate it.

We act as if we’re not really praying unless we pray for two hours straight, on our knees, in a prayer closet, with a prayer journal, and maintain an adequate ratio of praise-to-petition.

And, since we can’t do all that, we simply don’t pray at all.

But God doesn’t regulate prayer with some hierarchical system of holiness.

That’s Satan, complicating things so that we give it all up all-together, feeding us the lies:

Prayer is too hard.
Prayer is for the holy.
I get bored.
If only I could pray like her.  I guess I’m just a failure.
Surely God hears her prayers, but not mine because I don’t know how to start or what words to say and what if I get it all wrong?
I don’t have anything to say that’s important enough for God to hear.

Perhaps that’s how the disciples felt, when they overheard the Pharisees praying Shakespeare-quality performances every time they bowed their heads in the synagogue.

So, they asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray….”

Maybe they expected a formula or a long lecture about the process of prayer or a complicated prayer  cataloging system.

But Jesus did the opposite.  The Lord’s Prayer fits into five simple verses, which Jesus prefaced with this:

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Matthew 6:5-8 NIV).

Don’t pray to show off. 

Don’t feel like you need to pray for a long time.

Keep it simple.  Pray what’s on your heart, because God already knows what you’re thinking and feeling.

Over the years, I’ve kept prayers on Index cards, prayers in beautiful journals, prayers on my fridge, prayers in a Word Processor on my computer.

And you know what?  All of them were prayer.  All of them helped me rest in the presence of God, learning to trust Him with my needs and learning to listen to His voice.

In the end, what matters about prayer isn’t so much how we pray; it’s that we actually do it.

Now it’s your turn:  Has prayer ever seemed complicated or difficult to you?  What do you want to learn most about prayer?  What’s the best advice about prayer you’ve ever been given?   What have you found that works?

Originally published February 3, 2014

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

How to Pray When You Don’t Have Time to Pray

praying

 

“Why’d you have to say that aloud?”

That’s what my husband asked me and I knew it the moment I said those words I should have kept them shut up inside my head.

Foolish mama, to say, “If I can just make it to mid-March, the rest of the year will be easy.”

It’s like painting a big target on yourself with a sign saying, “Please hit me HERE.”

Of course, my daughters carried home three different invitations to join this team and that club and this after-school activity that very week.  And my tiniest girl comes to me with two birthday invitations.

That cathartic breath of victory, the kind you gasp in when you’ve crossed the finish-line of a suffocating race with your muscles screaming in pain and your head pounding, but you’re feeling accomplished—-that breath just got knocked right out of my breathless soul.

Why’d I have to go and say that aloud?

I pray out this whispered apology to God in my minivan:

“I’m just so sorry I’m rushing, sorry that 15 minutes of quiet in my car is the closest I get to really pouring it all out here with you, God.  Please forgive me.”

It used to be…

In those pre-Mom days, I commuted at least an hour each way and amused all the New Jersey drivers as the woman talking to herself and singing in her Dodge Neon.

Every day, I spent two hours in prayer and worship.

And now?

I’m disciplining myself through Bible study and I’m grabbing every last second to flop down all exhausted at the feet of Jesus.

There are days when I’m panting like David:

O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly;
My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You,
In a dry and weary land where there is no water  (Psalm 63:1 NASB).

I have been that dehydrated and parched.

This morning, I read it here:

In panic I cried out, “I am cut off from the Lord!”  But you heard my cry for mercy and answered my call for help.  Psalm 31:22

I have felt cut off from the Lord….Cut off from His presence.  Cut off from that sweet intimacy of rambling conversations and long soul-talks with my Savior.

But…

The Psalmist tells me God hears that cry for mercy and call for help.prayer quote

And He answers.

I can dream about used to be’s or feel the heavy burden of failure and mourn the loss.  No more two-hour-long ‘quiet’ times in my tiny commuter car.

But here’s the thing….I’m working harder than ever to be there with Him.  Perhaps that’s even more precious to Him?

There’s this blessed reality, this beautiful Mom-life.  The beauty of interrupted thoughts and sweet hugs, of digging seeds deep down in the fertile souls of these four babies.

Maybe I can’t slip away for hours of prayer, but it’s because I’ve got my hands sunk in the soil and God’s there with me, patting down the dirt, watering and weeding, pruning and tending this garden of my home.

I read this grace:

God gives more in a moment than in a long period of time, for His actions are not measured by time at allKnow that even when you are in the kitchen, our Lord is moving among the pots and pans.” – St Teresa of Avila

and this:

There are moments when you don’t have time for long, wordy prayers to God.  You’re in the trenches.  You’re at the end of your rope.  You’re in the middle of life and just can’t push the pause button….Simple prayers from a person whose heart is bent towards God can be just as powerful as the poetic prayers of David   (Emily E. Ryan, Guilt-Free Quiet Times).

I think of Nehemiah, who prayed and fasted for months, but had this one moment of great need and wrote simply, “So I prayed to the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 2:4).  Just one sentence.  one quick prayer for help when he needed it most.

That’s what my prayers are like now.

Emily E. Ryan teaches me 5-Word Prayers to Whisper in the Moment (from Guilt-Free Quiet Times)

Not my will, but Yours.
Not my timing, but Yours.
Not my day, but Yours.

This week, as I pursue the presence of Christ by Praying Simply….I practice these 5-word prayers.  Sometimes less.  Sometimes little more than, “Help!!” or “Jesus!!” or “Have mercy on me!”

I wash the dish and pray thanks.
I make the bed and pray for my marriage.
I drive the minivan and pray for our activities.
I tie the shoes and pray for the feet that wear them.

I feel His presence as we work that soil and I remember that I’m ministering with Him, not apart from Him.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I focus on Praying Simply?

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

Does prayer really have to be that complicated?

I don’t remember the first time I talked to God, but I remember the moment I decided prayer was personal.

It’s funny how you don’t recall most of life when you’re three or four years old, but you can have these few vivid memories that play back like a well-worn movie.

I don’t remember how I knew my father had left us.  I don’t remember how I felt about the whole ordeal of divorce.

But I sat on a swing-set in my backyard one day when I was about four and I said this,

“God, You’ll have to be my Daddy now.”

That I remember.

And prayer’s always been that for me, not some awkward attempt to wax poetic before a stern God.  I’ve never felt like my prayers have to ‘measure up’ or ‘sound holy.’DSCF2151

Because it’s always just been me, a simple girl talking to Dad about life on a swing-set, about making tough decisions, about life as a mom, about life….

I found a prayer journal years ago with categories and lists, a calendar of prayer planning, verses and notes, bookmarks, quotes, all spiral bound for easy writing.

I’m a little surprised that it didn’t light up or play music.

But the thing about that super-duper-deluxe journal is that I never could use it.  All those bells and whistles complicated prayer, made it so cumbersome and bulky.

I’d been chatting with God all day, every day for decades, and I couldn’t cram all that intimacy into a multi-step method in this how-to of prayer.

Maybe formulas and fancy systems work for you.

Or perhaps you’re like me, who simply wants prayer to be communion with God, the recognition of His presence here in this place.

Samuel Chadwick wrote:

“The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying.  He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion.  He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray” Samuel Chadwick

There’s such power in this prayer, and yet too often we avoid it and neglect it because we over-complicate it.

We act as if we’re not really praying unless we pray for two hours straight, on our knees, in a prayer closet, with a prayer journal, and maintain an adequate ratio of praise-to-petition.

And, since we can’t do all that, we simply don’t pray at all.

But God doesn’t regulate prayer with some hierarchical system of holiness.

That’s Satan, complicating things so that we give it all up all-together, feeding us the lies:

Prayer is too hard.
Prayer is for the holy.
I get bored.
If only I could pray like her.  I guess I’m just a failure.
Surely God hears her prayers, but not mine because I don’t know how to start or what words to say and what if I get it all wrong?
I don’t have anything to say that’s important enough for God to hear.

Perhaps that’s how the disciples felt, when they overheard the Pharisees praying Shakespeare-quality performances every time they bowed their heads in the synagogue.

So, they asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray….”

Maybe they expected a formula or a long lecture about the process of prayer or a complicated prayer  cataloging system.

But Jesus did the opposite.  The Lord’s Prayer fits into five simple verses, which Jesus prefaced with this:

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Matthew 6:5-8 NIV).

Don’t pray to show off. 

Don’t feel like you need to pray for a long time.

Keep it simple.  Pray what’s on your heart, because God already knows what you’re thinking and feeling.

Over the years, I’ve kept prayers on Index cards, prayers in beautiful journals, prayers on my fridge, prayers in a Word Processor on my computer.

And you know what?  All of them were prayer.  All of them helped me rest in the presence of God, learning to trust Him with my needs and learning to listen to His voice.

As I continue this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, I choose this month to linger here:

In the end, what matters about prayer isn’t how we pray, it’s that we actually do it.

That’s what I’m thinking….Now it’s your turn:

Has prayer ever seemed complicated or difficult to you?  What do you want to learn most about prayer?  What’s the best advice about prayer you’ve ever been given?   What have you found that works?

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me next month as I focus on Praying Simply?

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King