My Routines Build Me Up And Tear Me Down

I hate mornings. I can hardly get my body and brain to engage. I used to be a morning person. Not so much now. The challenge of falling asleep manifests itself, in an even greater way, in the morning.

As I try to wake up, the first thing I do is reach for my phone, with the hope that my wake up time is still many hours away. Squint-eyed I try to make out the time. I shower, brush my teeth, get dressed… Coffee

I have a routine that is forced. A lot of the things, I just have to do. I have many other routines; recurring things. I have rhythms I’m forced to change sometimes because life just happens. Something unexpected, a fuller diary, crises…

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Forgetting How To Pray

I think a lot. A lot about how I live is internal. I’m neither extroverted nor introverted. I’m one of those guys who are half and half. Because I think a lot, a lot of what happens to me is internal.

Sometimes I over think things. I’ve always been this way, as long as my memory serves me. I don’t fight it. I’ve learned how to make that work for me.

(Writing is one of the ways I’ve explored to help me process things.)

forgetting how to pray

This morning, as I took as walk along the coast I realised how much I had redirected some of my ‘prayer energy’ or focus to thinking. I had started thinking about the things I wanted to and should’ve been praying about.

Some people say God hears their thoughts and He should just take their thoughts as prayer. That is is them, not me!

Articulation

I don’t have a comprehensive, theological definition for what prayer is. Neither will I be prescriptive about how you should pray. However, for me, prayer must be articulated. It must be expressed.

Jesus knew that the Father knows us through and through. Every thought, anxiety, aspiration, reservation and passion. Everything. yet, Jesus invites us to ask (Luke 11:2-3; Matthew 7:7 cf. Philippians 4:6).

Prayer is more than thought; it is articulating [Click to Tweet]

I haven’t done a specific study, but as I think about it, there is nowhere in Scripture where prayer is just thought. Then again, it might just be my ‘bias’ toward prayer being articulated.

If most people are honest when they think “prayer”, they think “articulation” and “expression”. Never mind what people think right…

How

Because I grew up in a Christian home prayer was a norm. When I decided I was going to be a Christ follower I did wonder where my parents and others sourced their prayers. There were times I got stuck on the ‘how’.

How do I come up with things to pray? How can I string words and craft sentences in such a way that God understands and I don’t make a fool of myself?

This morning I seemed to find myself at the same place I was as a little boy. Remember, my ‘philosophy’ on prayer being articulated…

Thus I have to articulate my prayer, so that I know that I am praying. Also, I do believe that God knows what we need. He knows our thoughts but prayer is one of the ways we express our faith in Him. Faith in His love for us and willingness to act for and on our behalf.

Somehow I asked myself, “how should I pray?” I pray often. But here I was, asking myself how I should pray. Then I realised something else. What I was asking myself was how was I to articulate or express what I was thinking to God.

Perfect articulation is not the object of prayer; connecting with God is [Click to Tweet]

How could I be so stupid to believe that i had to wax eloquent when it came to prayer? For this moment, at least, how did I start believe that God only hears the eloquent?

After slaying these thoughts I whipped a messy and heartfelt prayer. I’m sure it pleased the Father to hear that snot and tears… I connected with God. He did some things in my heart.

Messy prayers mean and do more than unarticulated and unsaid prayers [Click to Tweet]

God is never surprised or puzzled when our (messy, articulated) prayers reach His ears. Like a parents having pleasure at their children’s attempt to speak, I know God loved hearing from me.

Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Rather the messy prayer than none at all…

What other barriers stop people from praying? Like me, have you had similar experience(s) in your prayer life?

Where Feet May Fail

My song at the moment. Can’t get enough of it…

The problem: it is a dangerous prayer! Do I really know and want what I pray as I sing the song?

I’m careful not to be mindless in singing and prayer to God.

I find God in my helplessness… The helplessness of surrender. Complete, total abandon…

Answers | Prayer Rehab

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I Am Jonah, this blog is also, in some way, a journal of how I’m learning to follow Jesus again. Part of it is about chronicling the tension between what God wants of, in and through me.

Lately, it seems God is putting me through prayer rehab. Reclaiming an appreciation of prayer and its significance. Sometimes it is not that I or we don’t know anything. It is not that we have forgotten but we need reminders. We need renewed perspective, vision, and passion.

A renewed sense of weightiness… It seems, at least for me, God always takes me back to the “elementary” to grow me, mature me to the “next level”, whatever that is.

Back to prayer…

God answers prayer. He does. Many times I’ve been frustrated with Him because ‘He didn’t answer my prayers’. The truth: most of the times He has answered my prayers the answer has been “no”.

Like a brat nagging mom or dad because they answered my request but not with the answer I wanted… That is how my prayer life has been in many seasons of my life.

Nothing but a nag. No depth. Me-focused. Intense on what I wanted… There are times the sum of my prayer life has been me giving God marching orders. My shopping list.

There are times my prayer life is nothing more than a rant about my problems. My challenges. I must be transparent, honest with God as I connect with Him. God is not shocked by my frustrations with the answers I get from Him, sometimes.

My humanity doesn’t shock or surprise God… Those times I rant, complain, and yes, even those times I’ve scolded God for not doing what I asked. For not doing what I wanted. What I told him, no, for not doing what I ordered Him to do.

I’m being reminded that I sometimes God’s answer is, “no”. Sometimes the answer is, “not that way or in this time”. The answer has also been, “never”.

This morning (sounds like a guy on the podium on Sunday morning right, but I am actually writing this in the early morning hours)

This morning, I am being reminded that even Paul, the apostle, the missionary, had desires to go places and God squashed them. Surely, he prayed about his plans… God’s answer to his plans were sometimes contrary to what Paul wanted. This is true for me. For us and our plans… Sometimes our prayers are in our plans / planning…

Sometimes God’s answer is, “Go!” and that can also freak me out. Somehow, God has a way of answering by giving us assignments we feel are greater than us. We feel ill-prepared and perhaps don’t measure up to.

Yet, He still sends me. Sometimes God’s answers are exactly what we wanted… That’s the next post.

Today, God, I pray, give me courage to accept and make peace with all Your answers… Amen.

 

Related:

More, Deeper Than A Craft

More Than A Combination Of Twenty Six Letters

More Than A Combination Of Twenty Six Letters

More Than A Combination Of Twenty Six Letters

I borrowed the tittle of this post from Mark Batterson‘s book, “In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day“. What I will share with you in this post is about something that struck a great chord in me. Particularly also due to my earlier post, More, Deeper Than A Craft.

I get this from Mark who got it from Ted Loder’s book, “Guerillas of Grace“. It is about how prayer is way more than what we have reduced it to. May it resonate with you, the way it has with me:

How shall I pray?

Are tears prayers, Lord?

Are screams prayers,

Or groans

or sighs

or curses?

Can trembling hands be lifted to you,

or clenched fists

or the cold sweat that trickles down my back

or the cramps that knot my stomach?

Will You accept my prayers, Lord,

my real prayers,

rooted in the much and much and rock of my life,

and not just the pretty, cut-flower, gracefully arranged

bouquet of words?

Will you accept me, Lord,

as I really am,

messed up mixture of glory and grime?

This prayer about prayer is so liberating. It gives a perspective and depth to prayer that I feel we have undermined and overlooked. Sometimes words evade us. Sometimes we don’t pray the prayers we really mean to or want to pray, because we’re locked into wanting to be crafty, articulate.

What are some of the things that have shaped your perspective and attitude toward prayer?

As I wrote the questions above I realised that there are both negative and positive things that have shaped my prayer life (whatever that is). As I’ve said, I shared some of that in this post. If you haven’t read it check it out and let’s have a conversation.

You can do that either with me, others but most importantly with God.

I know, for sure, that one of the biggest approach and “attitude shapers” when it comes to God, is our understanding of who God is. As my view of God has matured, so has my prayer life. Sometimes I think I’ve regressed. See-saw. At other times I’ve adopted, knowingly and otherwise, other people’s approaches and practices.

I have been guilty of creating a chasm between God and myself (if ever that is possible, but you know what I mean… I’ve done this by embracing barriers and practices that I’ve created myself or adopted from others.

Probably my most earnest prayer ever is this one here. I am convinced it’s probably the most defining prayer we can pray. Nothing can define us more than God encounters. And, they are birthed in earnestness in prayer.

[Photo Credit: ninastoessinger]

More, Deeper Than A Craft – Prayer

It scares me how careful I can be in “crafting” ‘my prayer’ to God. I mean, prayer is a critical part of the lifeline of any Christ follower. It is something I must not only do, but do well.

Sometimes I get caught up wanting my prayer to be “perfect”. I want to make sure that God doesn’t misunderstand me. Yeah, you read that right. As if it was possible that God could misconstrue my carefully crafted utterances. I can’t believe I can be that dumb.

It gets worse. I sometimes envy other people’s prayer lives. I mean I get motivated, then jealous, sad and depressed as I compare my “prayer life” to others’. How dumb.

More And Deeper Than A Craft

How dare I even make prayer about me?! Can we be so depraved that we can take something sacred, a communion with Divinity and reduce it to a skill we compare with others?! Help us, no, help me, Jesus.

Perhaps one of the reasons I end up going down this road is that I think God will act based on the quality of my prayer to Him. “Quality of prayer?”. What the heck is “quality of prayer” anyways?

God loves earnestness in prayer, way more than craftiness. How do I forget that? [Click to Tweet]

I think “quality of prayer” is a man created standard. It keeps new Christ followers from feeling worthy to seek an audience with God. To speak to Him and hear Him speak to them. I fall in that trap.

I’ve been a Christ follower for over twenty years but I sometimes feel like I’ve only started following recently. This is because in many ways I’m still learning. Yearning. Growing.

I sometimes forget that it is not the “quality of ‘my prayers'” but that I pray that matters [Click to Tweet]

God, I pray that we be liberated from trying to perfect in the way we communicate with you. Help me to be secure in communicating with You being enough. May how I communicate be only secondary, even irrelevant, but that I am present and focused on You when I do so. Help me, I Am Jonah.

Check out the follow-up post “More Than A Combination Of Twenty Six Letters”

[Photo Credit: Charles and Hudson]