Now I lay me down to sleep …
God is good, God is great …
These prayers tend to roll off the tongue as effortlessly as “I love you” or “please and thank you.” And while the latter are intentional and honest, they also aren’t really well thought out. Are there NO BETTER WORDS to say to God than you are good and great? To watch over me while I sleep?
Today in church we had a guest preacher, a woman studying for her divinity degree (I think!). The theme of her sermon was dissecting how we pray and why it is so hard for many of us. Myself included. If you asked me to lead a prayer in front of a large group, I would probably be a bit speechless. Yet every night before I go to bed, my conversation with God is one of many words and thanks.
Today I realized that maybe I am ignorant about prayer. I definitely try to pray most days than not and I ALWAYS thank God for what I have and what He has given me. I don’t want to be that person who only prays when they need something, because I believe God expects us to recognize the gifts we have, even when or if they are small and hard to find. I believe each day of life is a gift; and after having given birth and witnessing the miracle of it, I believe this even more.
I think sometimes we are taught that we must pray like a preacher or someone on TV. Accurately quoting scripture or making sure we know the right disciple’s name. But we don’t have to speak like that. God just wants to hear our prayers, our thanks, our requests for forgiveness and our recognition of our sins. Because let’s face it, we are all sinners.
My nightly prayers typically start out like, “hey God, what’s up!” Just Kidding. I always say thank you for the beautiful day of life I’ve been given, and graciously ask for another. I think thank Him for my husband and son and the health of my family and friends. Life is really about these things to me; everything else is second. I then seem to reflect on my day or the things that are happening in my life, recognizing what part of it all God is doing intentionally or what he is wanting, asking me to figure out from it.
See, I am the perfect example of someone who for so long wanted things, and asked God for things, but didn’t understand patience or the fact that God has His own plan. When I think about it, I’ve ultimately been given everything I’ve ever truly wanted. A job I enjoy, a soul mate for the rest of my life, and a child. Hopefully God will reward me with another, but that is up to him.
But for so long when I pleaded or needed something (many of the times I’ve been laid off or broken hearted) I became almost angry that God didn’t deliver when I wanted. But I finally learned that just because I wanted Sean to propose, that didn’t mean Sean was ready. God slowed me down and told me to wait. To be patient. And although it took me a bit longer to get pregnant than many of my peers, I knew God was waiting for it to happen at the perfect moment. Perfect for me.
So now, I am much more relaxed in my prayers. I don’t really ask for things on any kind of time table. I tend to trust him more and just ask for guidance or understanding during difficult times. I try not to be selfish. I talk to God on a regular basis, thanking him for everything in my life and not just asking when things are wrong.
Today’s sermon really made me think. I once was asked to lead a friend in prayer before her wedding. She isn’t an overly religious person and I’m not even entirely sure of her beliefs to be honest. So I may be remiss for the previous statement. But she asked me to pray with her before she walked down the aisle. I was shocked. I was honored. I was…scared. What would I say? My prayers are typically between God and me. Or my son and God and me. I don’t normally pray on the behalf of others. But I got through it.
I also coached basketball this year as a head coach at my church. In the past, I was the assistant to my dad and he typically did the pre- or post-game speech. My assistant this year did not want to do it and so I did before/after each game. I said aloud, somewhat joking, “I hate praying.” I immediately wished I could swallow those words and erase them, or spit them back out. I had meant to say, “I don’t really enjoy praying aloud.” I’m surprised God didn’t strike me down with lightning for uttering such an untruth.
The fact is I DO enjoy praying. I love it actually. A sense of peace washes over me at the end of each night. I just haven’t always had the confidence to pray aloud and that was what I meant. But after many basketball games, in front of a bunch of 3-5th graders; and with my friend before her wedding, I seem to have gotten a little bit better at it.
But I’m curious about others and how they pray. I’ve wondered before if I did it “wrong.” Or if I’ve left something out. I think Catholics have specific prayers and I know in my church we recite the Lord’s Prayer. But in my personal prayers, are there any rules? What do other’s say?
Thank you Terri for helping me think about this today.