Sometimes, I pray like an idiot.
I pray like someone who doesn't know God, who can't see Him working in her life, who doesn't have her best interests at heart, who isn't hopelessly in love with her Creator and Father.
I pray like an idiot and it never used to bother me. It never occurred to me that in my insistent, panicked, desperate, completely focused on getting me through, obsessed on the dark times was the prayer of the faithless. Even when I started to get that inkling in my heart that what I was focused on had little to do with anything...even when I started noticing that though the words were in my head, they weren't in my heart...even when I saw God answering the deepest questions of my heart and begging me to let go of the demanding to be answered by the world's standard...even when I understood that the nagging, faithless, pained prayer was overridden by the presence of His peace in my heart...I continued to pray that way.
I continued forcing myself to pray that way. It was the only way I knew how to pray, approaching God with this begging attitude. Approaching like a toddler who has just seen the toy on the shelf, thinking I have had to throw a fit to get my way, to be loud and create a scene and refuse to turn my attention to anything else. I have just put my head down, ignored the nudging of my heart, and TRIED to keep the agonizing prayer going...even though I didn't really want what I was praying for any more and fully recognized that I no longer (and perhaps never) needed it.
And it would have been easy to think God wasn't listening to me, but He kept after my heart until I realized I wasn't listening to Him. And I wasn't even listening to myself.
My prayer is different these days. Now, I let Him stop me. I let Him get a word in, even if I've spiraled down into my faithless, emotion-driven, fear-based prayer of illegitimate concern (in the grand scheme of thing; it seems significant when you let your mind dwell on it and the lie tell you that it matters). I let that little inkling in my heart silence me. For a full moment. In the middle of a sentence sometimes. Whether I am writing or speaking or whispering or walking and mumbling, when that little nip in my heart hits me, I let Him stop me dead now. Mid-sentence. Just stop.
Usually, I find that I've already been answered on a deeper level than I was asking for. A different question, maybe, but the right question that makes all of the other answers (and lack of answers, periods of waiting, turns in the road of life) fall into place. When I listen to His whisper in my heart, I find two things: contentment and energy. And life is...ahhhhhhhhh. Life is good. God is good.
It changes the dynamic of my prayer instantly. Instead of latching onto my panic, my fear, my self-driven prayer in the definitions of the world, I find that permission to let go of it. I have stopped mid sentence, entered a "..." and continued with, "You know what, God? Forget about all that. This is perfect. This is wonderful. Give me more of this. Draw me closer to You. Be. Just Be. Be for me. Be for You. Be for this neighborhood, this community, this world. These seeking hearts. Be. And let ME be for You."
Somewhere, I think we lose sight of that part of prayer. I think we forget that it's a conversation. We get so caught up in the idea that if we pray, He hears us and answers, if we're looking for it. We craft our words and bow our heads and carefully pray where we think we need it, then open our eyes and look around and watch - bated - for His answer.
Maybe His answer comes with our eyes still closed. Maybe it's something we shouldn't be watching for, but something we should be listening for. And maybe when we hear it, we should let it stop us. Just stop us. For a full moment.
Because prayer is not our begging of God. It is not our demanding of God. It is not our petition of God. It is not even our praise of God.
Prayer is our conversation with God. And nobody walks away stronger from a conversation where they do all the talking.
Is God asking you for a moment? Is He asking you to stop the discipline of "prayer" and join a conversation? Is He whispering to your heart, though you might be talking too loudly to hear it? What if you stopped? What if you stopped and listened...for a full moment?