When I was growing up, there was a handful or so of different types of prayers. There was Grace at dinner which was the same prayer every night (Come Lord Jesus…), bedtime prayers (Now I lay me down to sleep…), the Lord’s Prayer, and then the liturgical prayers offered up by the pastor on Sunday morning. And, of course, there were always also the, “God I need something,” prayers which some people refer to as the, “ATM Machine God” prayers, because you call on God only when you’re in trouble or want something. Mind you, none of these are bad prayers in any way but, to me, prayer felt like more of an obligation than an opportunity, a generally unthinking- ritual without much substance or depth.
My small group is now reading Prayer, Does it Make Any Difference by Philip Yancey. This book tackles a really challenging topic and it’s full of meaty insights. One of these insights is that God wants to have a conversation with us and that we should, in fact, talk to God like we’re talking with our earthly fathers as a sort of dialog. (Yancey discusses a wide variety of types of prayers in this book and goes into depth about why prayer is important, but that’s a topic for another blog).
A while ago I started trying this approach to prayer. When I’d go on a walk, I’d ask God to join me. Sometimes that would work, sometimes not depending on my frame of mind at the time.
I learned something new, however, about this dialog approach to prayer while I was on a recent 12-day business trip to England and India. On occasion, while in England, I’m able to get together for dinner with some friends I have there but for the most part, I’d have breakfast and dinner alone. Outside of work, I don’t have any friends in India so I’d pretty much have breakfast and dinner alone all of the time.
Except now, I don’t have my meals alone. I invite God to join me.
At dinner, for example, I say a silent Grace and then I begin a dialog with God. I talk (silently of course) about my day and things that went well and things that went poorly. I’d ask His counsel on challenges, problems, and opportunities. I’d share my concerns about taking care of my family while I’m away. Mind you, this feeling is particularly acute when you’re in India which is pretty much literally on the other side of the planet – it would take you about 30 hours to get home in the best of conditions. I found myself feeling a bit lonely, but having a dialog with God at meals and throughout the day offered me three things:
· It eased my anxiety about being so far away from home.
· I wasn’t lonely eating by myself anymore. In fact, I kind of looked forward to my time with God.
· It helped me figure out what happened during the day, think it through and find ways to make tomorrow better.
As my small group digs further into Yancey’s book on prayer, I’ll be curious to find out how it’s changed their daily routines. I know that, over the course of our studies these past years, we’ve all become more mindful of the power of prayer but now, I think we’re starting to get a sense of why it’s important to us and to God.
I know that having God along on my trip sure made it a much more enjoyable and enriching experience. From the readings in my small group, I’ve learned that having a conversation with God can be a very enriching and comforting experience. It helps me experience fellowship with God in a new and different light. Give it a try sometime!
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