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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Prayer Posts and Prayer Dares #2

I didn’t grow up in a Christian home. When it came to things like prayer, I had little frame of reference.

My grandmother had some beads she used to hold when she would pray. She would go from bead to bead chanting mantras. She called it her rosary. And, she wouldn’t only talk to God, she talked to his “mom” apparently—I thought her first name was Hail. Hail Mary.

My father occasionally talked to God and addressed him by his full name. I thought his last name was dammit. I’d pray before meals, tests, and when I needed something. But, God was really no more real to me than Santa Claus. We didn’t really “chat.”

And, maybe you’re like me in that when I first started attending a church—it wasn’t so much about heart change for me, it wasn’t so much about a journey or experiencing God, it was about, “doing the right things.” I wanted to be a good boy.

So, when I started attending club Christian—I started looking for examples. I started to mimic. I wanted to do things right. I’d hear things like, “Oh, Mr. So-and-So is a good pray-er.” “Oh, she has a direct line to God.” “That was such a ‘moving’ prayer.” “They are prayer warriors.”

I modeled a formula . . .

Recipe for Prayer:

  • 1 dash of “tion” words i.e. “propitiation,” “supplication”
  • A sprinkling of poetry—use generously
  • A couple of adjectives before “Our Father” like “most gracious” or “all knowing”
  • A few sighs
  • 2 “amen’s” example: “amen and amen!”
  • 10 or more uses of the word “just”—Lord, I just want to thank you just for . . .

This is the model I had learned as a child. Whenever I heard people pray, this is what it sounded like. I guess I got good at it.

One day, someone told me they liked my style of praying.

But, honestly, I didn’t want a prayer “style.” I wanted to know more about prayer. I wanted to talk to God.

If I were to ask my dad for his car keys, I wouldn’t say . . . “Oh, most loving and gracious father, might you bestow upon me—your humble son—thy keys for which to use the vehicle you have so lovingly provided for my use? I would say, “Dad, can I use the keys?” Plain. Simple. Genuine. So why did I talk to my heavenly Father as if I were in a Shakespearean play?

Then, I started noticing quirky things about prayer all around me.

It was not only the language that was bizarre, not only the Monty Python words and accents, it sounded so . . . unconversational and so . . . not real. Every prayer was so sanitized. So clean. So polished. So impressive.

I was talking to a friend of mine tonight about prayer and he said that even after reading my blog post yesterday he realized how many habits he slips into with prayer without even thinking twice—the language—the posture.

What are some of the prayer quirks you have? Have you been able to change old prayer habits? Do you have a default language?

Today's dare . . . make mental note of the things you say in prayer that you are not really even sure what they mean.

Do you use words and phrases you are not sure of? Make a list. Share them here.

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