By David Acker, Youth Minister
Remember hide and seek? I loved that game. I was always so good at hiding. In fact, I still am. I hide very well. But now I can hide how I am doing very well. I can hide the times I don’t feel like praying. I am a pastor, so obviously, my prayers mean more and I pray more often then others (insert a loud “no way” here.) If I am being honest sometimes my heart just isn’t there. Sometimes, my head can’t get there. Or at times, I’m drained.
I didn’t always work well with my dad. A lot of times we butted heads on projects so we did things separately. The relationship I have always had with God is more of a father/son outlook. I look to Him to be my provider, but sometimes I lose sight that he wants to be more than just that for me.
Deep where I feel lonely, where I struggle to receive and make space for me – that is where God wants to be and to be known.
Loneliness is something I usually cover up by getting things done or having lots of roles. It looks good because I’m well rewarded for checking boxes and being productive. Even in ministry.
But at the end of the day, even if I’ve accomplished a lot, I don’t feel like I’ve done well. A lot of times I worry that I’m not focusing on the right things, or I could be just living an empty life. I want to be a better husband and father first. Then I want to increase my ability to lead and to care for others well in what I do.
I find it easier to take care of others and get things done for God, rather than be vulnerable with my needs. Often times, I don’t allow God to come truly into my mess. Having to ask the question, is He really wanting to step into what I have going on inside my thoughts and feelings? Does He really want to know how I feel about the things that I’ve prayed about for years and received not the answer that I want? What do I do when I feel that nothing has changed? What do I do on the days where I don’t want to pray about it?
God is showing me prayer is an intimate conversation to be loved and known, rather than a spiritual transaction to be made better. Praying should infiltrate the part of me that is in process, uncertain, full of questions and doubts. That is why praying is hard to do. And when I don’t know how to pray, it makes me feel ashamed.
Jesus understands and says, “Come to me, weary and heavy-laden. And I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28
Notice Jesus doesn’t say, “Come to me strong, cheerful, without worries.”
Jesus said the opposite. We’re invited to come to Him weary-whether confused, numb, anxious, angry or stressed. Jesus tells us to simply come. Imperfectly His. As we are.
I’m sorry, what? When do we ever hear that in Christian circles? The great cover up that we have is to just tell someone to pray about it. Don’t you think most “Christians” get that?
Even though this is Scripture, in our Christian culture, our dark times are often met with well-meaning encouragement like, “Relationship with God isn’t a feeling.”
Although partially true, this can de-humanize our connection with God. The Psalmist reminds us there are no easy answers. “He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.” Psalm 103:14 Sometimes, it takes more faith to tell God we don’t know how to pray-rather than praying for faith to pray like we used to.
I am trying to learn how to love myself first, the way that God loves me. We are in a sermon series right now about rescue. Remember, you can’t rescue someone else until you take care of yourself first. But don’t miss the fact that you are supposed to move on. Don’t be stuck focusing on fixing yourself.
We are a generation who doesn’t know how to express our souls to God, even though we drive ourselves exhausted, doing for Jesus. “Chronic overloading is not a spiritual prerequisite for authentic Christianity. Quite the contrary, overloading is often what we do when we forget who God is.” – Richard Swenson.
Instead of struggling to reach Jesus, invite Jesus to enter your world. Research in an article by The New York Times shows the power of writing your personal story can lead to behavioral changes and improve happiness. Even 15 minutes of expressive writing makes a difference. When we journal our stories with God, we give Him space to rewrite our stories with us.
“For the word of God is living and active … It penetrates dividing soul and spirit..” – Hebrews 4:11-12
The “word” is the Greek word logos-translated as living voice. God is not limited to the written word. God uses everything living to speak into our lives. This includes journaling and could be very healthy for you.
If you are too tired to pray, just stop, and rest.
Elijah had done everything he knew to do – even defeating the prophets of Baal. Yet, his problems did not go away and actually got worse. Stress broke Elijah’s spirit. In despair, Elijah woke up to find fresh bread baking on hot stones and water-left just for him. Not only that. God sent an angel to touch him -twice. God knew Elijah needed physical rejuvenation first – in order to hear His gentle voice, whispering in a gentle breeze.
Normally when I let this happen and focus on just letting God speak into my life, I have better days. Not easier, but better days and on these days, I am a better husband, father, and leader.
So, when you find it’s hard to pray, don’t be afraid. You’re standing at the very cusp of who God longs to connect with. The real you.