I had a childhood friend whose house I loved going to for sleepovers because they had many things that my house didn’t. Their house had stairs and a view of the river. They had pets. There was a television in every room, including the kitchen! Their house also had a married mother and father who rarely argued. A sleepover there was like living my fantasy for a weekend.
As I got older, the fantasy began to clear as I saw the cracks in the stairs and the polluted waters of the river. I noticed how each television allowed each family member to sit alone rather than together. And I realized the reason the parents rarely argued was because they rarely spoke.
Couples, who have been married for decades, are always asked what made their marriage successful. Various factors compose their answers but the most common thread tends to be communication. Any relationship can survive speed bumps and maybe a pitfall; but no relationship can thrive if people are not talking to each other.
This is also true when it comes to a relationship with God.
People (especially church folk) tend to make prayer this deep sanctimonious ritual with pious phrases or a crowd rousing soliloquy. Sometimes it is used for bragging rights with comments like, “I pray three times a day,” or “The first thing I do when I get up in the morning is get on my knees.” I do not seek to minimize these efforts as they can be quite noble in their intent. However, I sometimes wonder if for all these efforts, their relationship is filled with formality and no personal connection.
I was raised believing these formalities were necessary. Then, at a young age, I hit a major pitfall.
At that time, I was lost in a very dark place with no direction. I desperately needed to talk to God, but the typical forms of prayers were not enough for me. I found my prayers to be filled with rehearsed platitudes learned from years of emotional church revivals and Sunday morning services. They seemed impersonal and I needed to express how I was feeling in my own uncensored way. I needed to speak from my heart; and I needed him to speak directly to me. So, I picked up an old homework notebook and began to write. “Dear God…”
My letter was the uncensored truth of a human Christian. It was the pain of my struggle. I honestly expressed the uncertainty of my faith and my desperation for an answer. After writing the letter, I read it aloud. I prayed my letter. Then I opened my Bible and began to read. Immediately, I was led to a verse I had never come across at the time; Colossians 4:2. Though it was not exactly what I wanted to hear, I knew God had told me what to do. He turned on a tiny light in the midst of my darkness. In a strange, but comforting way, God and I had an actual conversation.
About a month later, when I needed a brighter light, I found myself writing another letter. Then again, the following month. The next summer, I had written several in June and July. Finally, by the end of that year, I bought a larger notebook for my daily letters. 20 years later, my letters are still filled with my truth and 20 years later, God still speaks.
Prayer is simply having a conversation with God.
Yes, a conversation.
It is not one-sided. It is not a monologue. It involves listening; mostly on your end. Listening is what often leads to a worship experience as it allows for God’s beautiful and comforting spirit to speak.
If you listen, he will speak to you personally. You will hear the loving words of his heart for you. You will hear (and feel) the breath of his whispers on the back of your neck and in the depth of your soul. It is the same breath that gave you life. It is the same breath that can breathe on those dreams you thought had died with your broken heart. The breath of his whispers can give them, and you, new life.
But you have to talk to him. Trust me…