Morning devotional. check
Read my Bible. check
Most of my life, I’ve treated prayer as a way of earning what I want from God. I do and say the right Christian things hoping to receive the things I so desperately want and think are best for my life. Don’t get me wrong—praying for these things isn’t bad. My motives have just been less than pure. I have this tendency to treat God as a vending machine. I want this, but not that. God, give me X, Y, and Z, because I did A, B, and C. And then, naturally, I get frustrated when God doesn’t deliver. Why am I still in school? Why am I in this season?
I have been learning that the key to unlocking what God has in store for me is not in “mastering” prayer or doing all the right Christian things. Instead, it’s about developing intimacy and an ongoing conversation with the God of the universe
A few years ago, I decided to give up listening to secular music in the car for Lent. With an hour-long commute, I knew limiting my music choices would be a stretch, but then, a friend challenged me to drive in silence. Ummm, hold please. Silence? For an hour every day? That sounded like a bad idea. What was I supposed to do in silence? My friend challenged me to start praying—aloud. Challenge (very hesitantly) accepted.
Let me be honest. It was really uncomfortable. Truthfully, I was scared. I’m expressive and talk with my hands, so I thought I’d look like a crazy woman driving down the freeway. Truthfully, there were more serious things I should have been scared of. As I started praying during those silent hours, God shattered my world—starting with my view of the life I thought I should be living.
I had no idea what God was capable of doing in my commute, if I only gave that time over to an ongoing conversation with God. Friends, God has done some of his deepest work in the driver’s seat of my car. Over the past couple of years, that seat has become one of my favorite places to meet with God. I cry, yell, and plead with God in that seat. And God hears my gratitude and frustration, my dreams and desires, my pleas and petitions. I’ve found myself becoming more and more honest during these times. Sometimes, it isn’t fun. But in those moments, God hears from the deepest and darkest parts of my soul. And then when I’m done praying, it’s still silent in my car. No music, remember? But that silence feels more and more like sitting silently with a friend who knows me intimately.
When my view of God shifted from Big-Man-in-the-Sky to Friend and Savior, the way I communicated with God changed drastically. Recently, two of my best friends moved away. Because we love each other and value each other’s friendship, we make a point of talking throughout the week (text, face time, phone calls); even though we aren’t physically together, we are up to date on each other’s lives because we communicate frequently and honestly. My relationship with God is the same. I have the freedom to be completely honest because the intimidation factor is gone. God doesn’t care what I say or how I say it. It’s not about the performance of prayer, but the honesty of prayer.
Friends, I want to challenge you: drive in silence one day a week, and use that time to pray aloud. I can promise two things: it’ll be uncomfortable and awkward at first, but it will change the way you view God and prayer. I know prayer can seem daunting and intimidating. What if I don’t have the right words? What if I don’t have enough words? That’s not the point. Some days I pray the same sentence over and over because those are the only words I can find. The important part of prayer is being in honest, intimate, and ongoing communication with God.
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