matterofprayer blog post for Friday, August 15, 2014
Conversation with God
Levity aside, do you pray? Once in a while, or sometimes, or even daily? I saw a recent survey of “average Americans” that said over 50 percent pray several times a week. As a woman of faith who strives to stay in regular contact with God myself, my initial thought was, “That’s great!”
But—my second thought came quickly on the heels of the first one. Did the people asking questions in that survey define “prayer?” And, how do each of the individuals answering the questions define “prayer?” I can’t answer either of those questions. However, I can tell you how I answer that question.
To me, prayer is often “a conversation with God.” Sure enough, when I pray, I do have conversations with God. Sometimes, I wish they could be conversations like I have with my friends, my family, those I care for and love. Wait a moment—God is all that to me, and more. God knows my deepest thoughts, the dearest desires of my heart. When I’m anxious or afraid, frustrated or downright angry. God can go with me, wherever I go. (“Whither thou goest, there also will I go,” to quote from a poetic, older version of the first chapter in the book of Ruth.)
But sometimes—sometimes God seems distant, even hiding. It’s as if I’m all alone. No one cares. No one is there for me, not even my husband, family, or friends. Not even God. Those are the dark times. The sad times. The times of depression, even despair. Yes, I have gone through times like that. When things are more positive and moving in a good direction, I often don’t want to think back to those dark, dismal times. Those bleak, even heartbreaking situations where I felt like I was in the bottom of a slimy pit with no way out.
Yet—I have come out of those situations. With the help of family, friends, colleagues. With the help of faithful praying companions. And I do have conversations with God. I do not start the conversation. Instead, I pick up the thread of the conversation, midstream. God spoke first. The beginning of my prayer “is in response to who God has been for us, or what God has done, or is making known to us, or causing us to feel.” (“The Word is Very Near You,” p.19, Fr. Martin Smith)
Yes, this is a redefinition of prayer. Yes, God does woo me “back from isolation into belonging and from anxiety into life-giving awareness.” (p. 18, Smith) As 1 John 4:19 tells us, “We love, because God first loved us.” Just so, we communicate with God—converse with God, because God communicated and conversed with us, first.
Let’s pray. Dear God, thank You for not demanding prayer. Instead, You graciously give prayer to us. It’s a gift! Thank You so much for this wonderful experience, and an opportunity to talk intimately with You, the God who created the heavens and the earth. It’s just You and me, God, Up close and personal. Intimate. Awesome. Thank You.
(also published at www.matterofprayer.net