Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Talking to Myself

For several days, we've been talking about prayer. And let me just tell you - this prayer thing is hard. It really is. I think prayer has got to be the thing that persons of faith have had more questions about than anything else in the faithful life. We have fought over how we're supposed to do church. We have debated over what fellowship means. We continue to try to hash out what love is as we live it out. But nearly every Christian I have ever known, heard about, or read about has wrestled with prayer.

And I'm not going to claim to have all the answers; I don't. But I do want to share with you some things that I learn along the way, some things that I've wrestled with and continue to wrestle with. Some things that are changing my prayer life. In the hopes, of course, that they can help you with yours.

Here's one thing that I'm coming to discover is key to a dynamic, vital prayer life: you have to really believe that you're talking with God - and that He's listening.

You have to believe that you're entering into a dialogue with someone other than you. You have to believe that God is who He says He is and that He wants for you what He says He wants for you. You have to have a sense of God's heart throughout your prayer so that you're always checking back in with Him, always pushing up against what you know of Him. Always remembering there is someone else in the room, someone with another perspective that you can't see on your own.

If you don't believe these things, if you don't remember that you believe these things while you're praying, then most of the time, you just end up talking to yourself. You end up ruminating on things rather than praying about them. You end up exhausting all of your options and never coming to any deeper understanding than you already had. You end up right back where you started because the truth is that you never left.

If you're anything like me, then you're already good at talking to yourself. Really good. You're already good at saying what you want to hear, already good at convincing yourself that you're smart and good and right about things. You already have a certain trust in your own wisdom, so it doesn't take much to convince you to act on it. You speak in a language that you already know, a language that you're very comfortable with and it's easy to not challenge yourself at all.

The truth is...I want lesser things for myself. Not intentionally, of course. I always say that I'm pushing myself. But when I'm talking to myself, what I'm really doing is staying right in the center of my comfort zone. I'm taking into account, before I even consider something, what I'm comfortable and confident doing. I limit my options before I even identify them because there are some things I just can't dream for myself. For a number of reasons. The strange thing is that even for those persons of faith who think very highly of themselves or who would consider themselves bold, when we start talking to ourselves for real, we all have this very small view of who we are. We just don't have God's big vision for us, and we can't unless He gives it to us. And He can't give it to us if He's not in the conversation.

Which means that if I'm just talking to myself, my prayer will stay shallow. It will stay small. So will my life. So will my faith.

So will my God.

Perhaps that's the strangest thing of them all. I know that there are times that I'm pretending to pray and I'm really just talking to myself. There are times that I forget that God is right here with me. There are times that I stop pressing up against His heart and pull back into my own. It happens. It happens to all of us. There are times that I am praying less for my life because I'm just talking to myself. And then...and then...even if I get all of the lesser things that I thought I was praying about, it's easy - super easy - for me to be angry at God that it isn't more. For me to blame God for the smallness of my life when it's my fault for not stepping into His bigness.

(This is where you say 'Amen.' Because you know it's true. You're doing it, too.)

That's why I say that I think one of the keys to a dynamic, vital, life-giving prayer life is to truly believe - and to remember - that you're talking with God, and that He's listening. Otherwise, you're just talking to yourself. And well, how's that working for you?

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