I don’t pray anymore.
I feel like I should want to, but I don’t.
I bow my head in church and before meals, but those are more habits than prayers, the result of years of practice as opposed to sincere devotion.
This is my story, this is my song.
I love my God, God made love
I love going to church. I love worshipping God in community. I love sharing in the joys and sorrows of my sisters and brothers in Christ. I love hearing them preach God’s truth. I love singing in church—ancient hymns, gospel anthems, contemporary worship music—you name it, I’ll sing it. I believe that there is much to love about God and the people of God.
I love my God, God made hate
The Bible says to pray for those we are inclined to hate. But what does that look like other than “Hey God, can you make this person suck less please?” And what if God actually does? And suddenly that person doesn’t suck? What am I supposed to do with all this self-righteous anger?
In sixth grade, we learned about the Acts prayer model, “ACTS” being a helpful acronym that reminded us of things we should include in prayer: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. We made posters with ideas of what to pray for in each section—praise you mighty Lord, forgive us when we tell lies, thank you for this food we are about to eat, please be with the troops in Iraq. My teacher was fairly insistent that we follow this model, and in one of the few acts of defiance of my educational career, I refused to comply. I hated the ACTS model. I hated its strict outline, its forced affection. I knew there was more to prayer than reading off of posters. But I’m not sure what that is. I hate being told how to pray, and I hate that I still don’t know how to do it on my own.
I love my God, God made good
I received an email this week asking me to be part of a prayer team for a loved one’s ministry. I took the prayer requests listed to heart, but I feel like I can’t do more, like I can’t actually go to God in prayer like I’ve been asked to. What struck me the most in this email was the sender’s belief in the power of prayer—they did not send this email out just because that’s what people in working in ministry do. They sent it because they believe it matters, that it will make a difference. Do I believe that prayer is good? Yeah, sure. Do I think it’s necessary or powerful? Well, that’s a different story.
I love my God, God made bad
I think of all the times I’ve told someone “I’ll pray for you” even though I knew even as I was saying it that I wouldn’t do it. Does that make me a bad person? A bad Christian? I could not say it, but it’s my go-to thing to say when I don’t know what to say. I guess I’ll shut up then.
I love my God, God made me
In good times and bad, my prayer life was always mired in the guilt of not praying enough. Other than a handful of spiritually rich seasons of life, most of my prayers contained some kind of “sorry” for my lack of consistency and stamina. Ironically, not praying at all has freed me from the guilt of only praying sometimes. It has freed me from striving for a dialogue with God that leads to perpetual disappointment, the end of a one-sided conversation that, frankly, was never all that compelling.
It’s something I gave up on because I couldn’t get it right, because I didn’t believe in its power, because it filled me with guilt.
In Jesus’ name, amen.