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October 9, 2009

OK to Pray

by Rev. A. J. Iovine

O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth. Psalm 54:2

Earlier this week, I was sitting down talking with someone and by the grace of God, our conversation turned to prayer. I inquired if, outside of a church setting, she prayed to God.

“To be honest,” she said, “I don’t pray a lot. Maybe when I’m sick or something bad happens. But no, I regularly don’t pray.”

This topic moved me to ponder my own prayer life. Of course, as a pastor, I always find myself praying. But … I always have this nagging thought in my head that my prayers aren’t good enough. This is, of course, a dopey statement for one important reason: God hears all prayers and when they may sound like babbling or the words don’t seem right, the Holy Spirit is taking our babble prayers and making sense out of them. Our Father in heaven, with our intercessor Jesus Christ at His right hand, hears all of our prayers and makes sense of them and He truly answers them in His own way.

Even with that confidence, I still find myself thinking that my prayers, and my prayer life, needs a little work.

Throughout the course of my day, I find myself praying little prayers. They are like murmur prayers.

I say “murmur” because that is what it is — a prayer that is not said loud enough for people to hear or soft enough that when people look at me they just see my lips moving. Most times, these murmur prayers deal with personal issues or problems that have arisen in my life; other times, my prayers deal with situations I was dealing with at the time. For example, routinely after completing visiting someone, I say a murmur prayer.

When I assess my strengths and weaknesses, one of my weaknesses is prayer. At times, I find myself struggling to find the right words to say or to say the prayer in some meaningful way for those with whom I am praying. There are times when my petitions to our Father in heaven sound worse than babbles; I mix and match grammatical rules in each petition; and when I finally finish, I feel like God is in heaven looking down and thinking to himself, “What did he say?”

Outside of my struggles with “off the top of my head” prayer, my consistency with daily prayer drives me up a wall. While I do pray many times before each meal, before heading out for the day, before I lay my head down to sleep at night, my big problem is consistency. There are way too many times when I fall asleep without saying “my prayers” at night. It is not because I don’t want to — it is because I just get tired and conk out.

This shouldn’t be surprising. Many Christians have a problem getting into a daily prayer routine. One of the big reasons we started daily Morning Prayer, our Midweek service, a weekly printed and expanded prayer list, was to impress upon all of us the importance of spending even a little time each day in prayer.

Praying is our talking to God. It is something we should all feel comfortable doing.

That is why, after my talk earlier this week, I started focusing more on my prayer life. I am pushing myself to remember to pray daily, especially in the evenings, my biggest weakness. So far, so good.

Early on Friday morning, I spoke with the woman from earlier in the week.

“You know, I actually prayed last night,” she informed me. “It was kind of weird, but I have a rough day ahead of me and I prayed that I would be able to get through the day in one piece.”

It is a start. God loves us and wants to hear from us…from all of us.

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