For so long I have held fast to the mentality of, I am really bad at praying. And for so long that mentality, that personal accusation, stunted my prayer life.
I know where that seed of doubt was planted.
A few years ago, while I was very new to Christianity, a woman pronounced that we should never save our prayer time for riding in the car. She was very convicted in this thought. That God deserves the very best every morning.
While I agree, God deserves our best. At that point in my life, that was not the season I was in. If I’m being honest, it is still not the season of life that I am in.
I remember thinking, “Wow, I suck at praying.”
I tried to take the comment with a grain of salt. She wasn’t a mother and didn’t quite understand the busyness of motherhood. And by busyness, I don’t mean a full calendar. I don’t even mean trying to get to the gym or squeezing enough time into the day to get a shower. I mean a day full of 1000 questions, diaper changes, driving kids to multiple destinations, and feeding little mouths. I mean constant attention and focus being pulled away from myself. And from God.
That same woman is a mother now, so I imagine her prayer time looks different than it did before. But I can’t help but remember how guilty I felt after she made that very convicted comment. It was like she had stepped inside my world, judged it, and made a personal attack on my ability to be a good Christian.
The guilt restricted my prayer.
It made me feel like I couldn’t talk to God unless I was sitting in a room with 20 candles lit and my Bible open. (A very Instagram worthy event.) It was very rare that I had time to sit. Even more rare that I had time to light a candle!
At that time in my life, prayer was something I didn’t do with Landon or Derek, outside of saying grace. I would never volunteer to pray with anyone, especially in a group where more than one person could hear me. That was terrifying, because I sucked at praying.
Prayer was something I did in the car on my way to work, once I had dropped Landon off at school, of course. It was my only time alone.
But God is always working in us and slowly, a shift started happening.
Landon started to get into trouble at school. His third-grade year caused me so much anxiety and stress every time I dropped him off or picked him up. It still makes me uneasy just thinking about that year. He was always getting into trouble with his teacher.
It was to the point where I felt it necessary to sit down with his teacher and the principal because I felt like his teacher was picking on him. I had never been to the principal in my life as a student. Imagine the anxiety I was having around knowing the principal so well. It was palpable in our home.
To combat those feelings, I started praying with Landon in the car on the way to drop him at school. I would take his prayer requests and I would pray out-loud while driving, pretty much the whole way.
The prayers were simple, but heartfelt. As much as I was speaking simply, so Landon could understand, I was speaking simply because I didn’t understand how to pray to God. I didn’t understand that I could just speak to Him.
My relationship with God was still very young even though I grew up Catholic. Where I was taught structured prayers, that weren’t always to Jesus. I was taught to pray to the Saints. And there is a saint for everything; for travel (St. Christopher), for lost objects (St. Anthony) and even a saint for pastry chefs (St. Phillip).
My Mom will still say, “You should pray for Saint Anthony to find those keys.” And even though she’s serious, we will giggle about it.
She knows I go straight to Jesus with my prayers now.
Here’s the thing, after six years of growing in my relationship with God… someone could claim that I still suck at praying. But it’s not me.
Yes, there are things that make me uncomfortable sometimes.
No, I don’t know all the Christian words and phrases that make the others in the room respond with a “Hmm,” or a “Yes, Lord.” And I’m okay with that.
Yes, I am still learning scripture. No, I don’t know enough to quote it word for word, or sometimes even tell you which gospel it’s from. I’m still learning, still growing.
Oh yes, my prayers are often on the shorter side. Most of the time they are a list of gratitudes. Sometimes I repeat the same three words over and over, “Jesus. Help me.”
But they are still intimate, they still connect me to God.
I often write my prayers out in a journal. Pen to paper, intentional and concrete.
I have to say, a lot of my prayers are for other people’s children or families. I am on two text threads that are full of wonderful women, and often prayer is requested in them. And I love that.
I love the community, the vulnerability and the trust we all have through a text thread. (And in real life.) But, that does mean that I am praying for many people, sometimes before my own family.
I am aware that by the time my head hits the pillow at night my prayer looks like a version of this, “Lord, thank you for today. I love you. Amen.”
I cannot save my prayer for bedtime. I often fall asleep mid-sentence at night while talking with Derek. I cannot try to save that time for God. He certainly deserves more, and better than that.
I do pray in the car. I pray in the shower. I pray while Adeline says Grace at dinner, leading us in a singing prayer to the tune of “Frere Jacques”. I pray when I am angry with the kids (I usually have to leave the room to do this). I pray when I worship. I pray before I spend time in His Word. I pray alone. I pray while sitting next to someone.
But, I still don’t sit with candles and have an organized area dedicated for prayer, like in the War Room. Though, that sounds like a dream if I’m honest.
Even through I don’t have that, I do know that I am growing in prayer.
And, I do know that God looks at your heart more than anything. Thankfully.
He doesn’t care that I don’t pray often in groups. So quickly the prayer can become about me and about the listeners; not as much about Him and I.
In Matthew 6:5 Jesus says, “And when you pray you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others.”
He doesn’t care how long I babble for. “When you pray do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you as Him.” (Matthew 6:7-8)
He’s a good Father and wants a relationship with us.
Praying is a way to strengthen and grow in relationship with Him. Think about the people you’re in relationship with. When you don’t talk with them often does your relationship grow, or is it stunted?
I know my parents are happy to hear from me on a regular basis, and I never have to prepare ahead of time to talk with them. I just call them. It’s the same with God.
Just like a parent wants you to come to them with celebrations, victories, worries and requests, so does God. He wants a relationship with you, time with you. That happens with prayer.
Don’t let the thought of “I suck at praying” stop you. God doesn’t care if you think you suck at praying, He cares if you are talking to Him.
p.s. If you want to hear a great sermon on praying, please listen to this one from a pastor at our church.