Have you ever asked others to pray with you?
Ok. Have you ever asked others to pray with you...when you aren't, or have no intention or, praying?
It happens to the best of us. (I hope. Because otherwise, it's just me.) Life throws so many things our way. Good things, bad things, tough things. Things we know what to do with and some things that we don't. And as people of faith, most of us know we're supposed to pray about such things. About all things. So when we don't know what to say, how to finish a sentence that seems like an incomplete thought - "The results are in,a and they aren't good.... Today was hard and tomorrow doesn't look any better.... They turned away and I kept running...." - we tack "Please pray" on the end of it. Because that's what we do, even when we're not doing it.
There are some times this is all we can do. Times when we don't know how to pray. Or what to pray. Or even, yes I'll say it, why to pray. Times when our spirits are overwhelmed and weak and broken and they don't know what to do with this mess. They know prayer is the answer, but prayer...is a foreign word. Or at the very least, a four-letter word. I'm not sure which is worse. So we invite others to pray, hoping their words will find meaning where it doesn't seem like ours can. This is the beauty of a community of prayer. It is the place where the groaning of the Spirit and the fire of a thousand tongues comes together to convey a message we can only vaguely grasp in a heart that can't hold onto anything. A broken wineskin where even God's good grace just runs right out.
But sometimes, and I'll speak for me knowing full well I'm not alone, I ask you to join me in prayer so that I don't have to pray. So that I don't have to hope. So that I don't have to put my heart on the line one more time, expose myself to one more dream, invite one more disappointment. If I can get you to do all of my praying and all of my hoping for me, then life just gets to happen. And either it's good or it's bad but it doesn't take the significant investment of my heart. I can either enjoy it or shake it off and it doesn't hit as deep. Because it's just been this thing out there...and not this very real thing inside here.
The problem is that the day comes when life has just been happening for...who even remembers how long? and all of a sudden, you wonder how much of your own life you've even been living. It's nearly devoid of hope and joy because you've been too busy guarding against disappointment and despair. God is a friend, but a distant friend, and it's been so long since you talked to Him that you almost forget how. Ok, you completely forget how. You still say things like "Please pray" but you can't remember what that second word means.
I love that we are a people who use the word "pray" as frequently as we do, but I am saddened that we are a people who do not as often do what we say. I confess I am part of the problem.
It's not just in the hard things, though, and that's what gets me. The way we have watered down the word "pray," we have done the same to "praise." Have you ever said to someone, "Praise the Lord!"...without actually stopping for even half a blink to actually praise the Lord? Guilty.
It's easy to pawn off our relationship with God with the right buzz words, without ever actually engaging our faith. It's easy because it doesn't feel like it costs anything. It doesn't take the risk of hope, the courage of vulnerability. It doesn't take the admission that there's something missing, that there's a longing inside of us. We never have to say the words "I want" or "I need" or "I hope" or even "I love." We don't have to say anything because the word we've said sounds like a thing all in itself - "pray." But until we've actually done it, it's not anything at all.
There are things in my life I've been actively not praying for. There are things on my heart I have been willfully pushing aside so I don't have to say them out loud. Not to my God, and not to myself. There are challenges I should accept, weaknesses I should embrace, hopes I should dare hold onto, and steps to walk and it's reached a point in me where I understand that clothing the heart in buzz words, saying what seems like the right thing to say, is costing me something.
It's costing me the opportunity to be everything God wants me to be, to do everything God wants me to do. To pull yesterday's point into today, it's forcing me into a life where God is doing everything He can with me...but not everything He wants. And I realize I want it, too, and I don't want to settle.
So be honest. How often do you use "Please pray" as half a sentence? "So that I don't have to." How often do you delegate your heart's duties to others so you don't have to risk the investment? So you don't have to hope? So you don't have to dream? So you don't have to fall? What would your life look like if every time you said, "Please pray," you also said, "Dear Lord"?
You might find the very thing you're trying so hard not to hope for.
Go ahead and hope. Dare to dream. Care enough about your life to cry out. Fall into faith. Be blessed and broken.
Fingers crossed and hands folded.