Earlier this week we were discussing prayer and intimacy with God at Reading Room with John Njoroge. I was praying about whether I should be honest about the fact that I find prayer an intimacy killer much of the time. (Yes, I see the irony in that last sentence.) When I saw this topic, I thought, “That’s God’s answer. I need to be honest because other people might struggle like I do.”
So why would prayer kill my intimacy with God?
I feel like prayer is a duty. I think of prayer time as an appointment to bring a list of people before God because He might not do good things for them if I don’t mention their names enough times.
I think of prayer as something I fail at. Guilt kills intimacy.
I’m plagued by unanswered prayer. I’ve prayed for things that I knew were in the will of God, and I didn’t see a change, so I doubt whether my prayers have an effect.
I trust God. (Yeah, that’s a crazy reason not to pray.) I know He wants what’s best for me, and He knows what’s best for me, so what am I asking for?
I freeze when I try to pray. Prayer times bring on the ultimate writer’s block—pages and pages of blank time that I’m supposed to fill as a monologue. This terrifies me so much I’m speechless, so I fold the pages into paper airplanes, send them to up to God totally blank, and read another chapter in the Bible.
Much typical advice for structuring a prayer time, like the word ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication), doesn’t work well for me because my ritualistic personality turns that form of prayer into a job to accomplish.
The best suggestion I’ve gotten recently came from @Brian_Upsher. He asked me, “What has helped you grow in your relationship with God?”
My first thought was worship music. When I play praise songs on piano, my heart connects with God. So I thought, “Duh, Jennifer, why don’t you do that more?”
I also realized there is an aspect of prayer that comes naturally to me. Pointless prayer. If you follow me around when I’m shopping for clothes, you might think I’ve started swearing because I’ll say out loud, “God, that’s ugly.” I’m not swearing. I honestly believe the God of the universe cares what I think about the color of a dress. I talk to Him about what kind of chocolate I feel like eating at the moment. White or dark? He knows I’ll always choose dark, but I talk to Him anyway.
That’s intimacy, and it circles back to what Lou Phillips said about starting with an understanding of God as our Father. If calling something prayer makes me freeze, maybe I don’t have to call it that for now. But my Father likes it when I talk with Him, and I plan to talk with Him more.