When I was very small I got a Prayer Bear for Easter. This was long, long before the ones where you squeeze a paw and it recites the Lord’s prayer. No, mine was just a simple plush bear in blue shirt with his hands clasped together by Velcro. I was taught to pray before bedtime and before meals. We believed in the power of prayer and in miracles.
I remained faithful with my bedtime prayers as I entered into high school except now a few simple thoughts didn’t seem to be enough. I marveled at how the Pope was said to get up so early that he could pray for hours before his day actually began. I lifted up prayer about anything and everything, about anyone and everyone. Praying had also benefited me during my early teens as I wrestled with big questions and spiritual warfare. At church, I became more fond of praying silently at the altar.
Then I went away to bible college. Here it was harder to wriggle out of being asked to pray. I had surrendered to ministry, after all. Each class began with prayer. After several requests were given, the prof would call on one of us to pray. This always made me nervous. I didn’t look forward to being asked. When I was, I struggled through it. When I wasn’t, I sighed in relief. I was more comfortable with small groups as I lead a group of dorm guys.
My personal prayer life consisted of scribblings in my journal and talking aloud to God on morning walks around the campus lake. Sometimes I prayed anxiously over not being where I thought I needed to be in relation to God and of my seeming inability to get-it-together. The idea of prayer, that we make requests of an all-knowing God, became more peculiar though I recognized the importance of continuing in it.I learned a model of prayer: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. This was helpful and biblical but in my efforts to adapt to this model, my prayer life lost all spontaneity and gradually dried up.
In recent years, I’ve prayed with less consistency. As I’ve gotten older, when praying at bedtime I often doze off. I don’t always pray over my meals or even dare-I-say keep my eyes closed during prayer with others. I’ve become comfortable with impromptu prayer but only when it’s just me and Donna. To this day when asked to pray as I feel lead, I never feel lead. If put on the spot, I will comply but I secretly wish no one asked. I feel like the kid in Sunday School who doesn’t read and is asked to.
Last year, a co-worker who is Christian asked me to pray for something. I gave her some convoluted explanation as to why I wasn’t sure that I could fulfill her request. It had been my experience that people would agree to pray but not follow through. I didn’t want to do that. I wasn’t sure I would remember to later. But, if this had been a non-Christian friend I would never had said this. I would’ve been pleased they asked. I would’ve happily obliged. That’s been my sentiment for awhile but I’m trying to change that. On Twitter and Facebook friends often ask for prayer. When I see these requests, I write back, “ok” or “I will” just so they know that I am with them for that moment, however brief. And then, I take a half a minute to pray for them.
The best prayer may be the shortest, “God help me” and that is my prayer tonight. Amen.