I don’t believe prayer works.
Actually, let me clarify that statement. In my head, I know prayer works. I’ve read the scriptures. I’ve attended the prayer meetings. Heck, I’ve even fasted and prayed. In my head, prayer works. I will profess up and down that it works, and that it is beneficial, and that it is the lifeblood of my relationship with God.
Can I be honest? More often than not, the way I live speaks otherwise.
The way I live says that prayer is ineffective. The way I live says prayer is a ritual at best. The way I live says that prayer is something to check off of my list before I eat or go to bed. Am I alone? Am I the only one that feels like more often than not, prayer is talking to a wall? That when I pray, my words just bounce off of the ceiling and back down into my face? I can’t be alone in this.
I think a big part of this is that in the modern church, we don’t teach people to pray. We treat God like a cosmic vending machine. He’s there when we need stuff. He’s there when things are headed downhill fast, and we need some rescue. We desperately offer up these half-hearted prayers to God, that have no real faith behind them, and then wonder why he doesn’t answer them like we want. I’ve been convicted lately of this. I treat God that way. He’s there when I need him, and the rest of the time, he just hangs out and watches me live life. He’s blessed to have me on his team. Absurd.
For the ancient Hebrews, the name of God (YAHWEH) actually contained no vowels. So it was literally spelled “YHWH.” What’s my point? There are scholars who maintain that the sound of that word was nearly identical to the sound of someone breathing in, then out. Breath. The most natural, thing we do. We breathe tens of thousands of times a day without even thinking about it.
What if we prayed like that?
What if prayer wasn’t a checklist item, or something we did out of duty or obligation? What if it was as natural to us as breathing? We often didn’t even think about it. We just….pray. As normal as the breathing. In and out.
I’m reading a fascinating book right now by Paul Miller called A Praying Life and he makes this same point. Prayer isn’t magical. Prayer isn’t closing yourself off to the world and spending hours on your knees (although that doesn’t hurt.) Prayer is as simple as getting in the car and offering a ten second prayer for your kids. Prayer is getting in the elevator at work and praying for your boss while you ride. It’s normal. It’s mundane. It’s organic. It’s just…you.
What would my life look like if I prayed that way? What chains would be broken, or doors opened, or people healed? What if I had the audacious faith to pray, and believe that my prayers made a difference? By his grace, I’m getting there. I’m re-learning how to pray.
Is it time for you to re-learn as well?