This process of inner transformation is fascinating to watch, in my own life and others. It’s disorienting for many when their age-old religious practices start to shift. I know it was for me. One day you’re doing a regimen of Bible reading and prayer, feeling good about yourself for ticking all the boxes. Then, they seem lifeless, or at least ineffective. Part of you says keep doing it no matter what, another part invites you down a journey away from religious obligation to discover what a real engagement with the Scriptures or God might be. I enjoy stories of those who take the road less traveled, and risk moving away from the lifeless status quo to discover a real relationship with God.
Transformation comes slowly. We may even been a bit naughty at the beginning since we’re not doing the things we’re “supposed to do.” But what many of us have found on the other side is that prayer and Bible reading become so much more real inside a growing relationship, rather than as a rote exercise out of obligation.
I got this from someone today in that very process:
I’ve been contemplating something this morning…. I have a hard time with journaling now for a few days. I was an avid journaler as that’s where I communicated with God. I have a hard time “speaking prayers”… I can say “help me God” but most of the time all that’s there are the thoughts within. I don’t speak out much in the “dear God” prayers. I’m not overwhelmed with guilt because I think of the Spirit groaning and Jesus interceding and since Jesus lives in me I believe that my thoughts and aches are translated in intercession to the father. I’m not worried that I don’t have words because I know how I feel with my own children. Sometimes my son will come out of his room and just sit in the living room, yes, often on his phone… 🙂 But he’s in the living room with me. I don’t care that he’s not talking. I’m just happy he’s in the room with me. If he wants to say something he can, if he doesn’t it’s ok. He’s with me.
I know that there’s been such a huge distortion in regards to prayer for me as I often just don’t want to “talk” to God. For one, it was displayed as an act of allegiance to stay in right standing with God. For two, so many of my prayers were about me getting what I thought was best for me. An example: my broken-down car. The way I would approach it was to start to pray… and gather as many people as I could to pray. We would all ask God together to cause the car to be an inexpensive fix. That was the best thing for me, right. I would pray constantly asking God to make it an inexpensive fix. When the call came telling me it was a transmission there would be a deflation…. Why didn’t God give me “the best thing” and inexpensive repair. What about “whatever you ask for in His name will be given to you”? I had used Jesus’ name and asked over and over again, believing. What happened there? As a parent I would do that for my child, why wouldn’t he do that for me? What kind of love is that?
Somehow I believe I have equated prayers answered the way I wanted with love, attentiveness, and care. I got to the point that I stopped asking for things because what was the point, I rarely get what I pray for anyways. Answered prayer became some type of symbol of his love. When it wasn’t answered the way I had prayed the indications were that something was really wrong, with God’s care for me of maybe with my value to Him. I think somehow this distortion has hidden His love. I think of the scripture that talks about “if a child asks for bread would he be given a stone.” I often felt like I was being given the stone when God wouldn’t give me what I “so desperately needed”.. (of course I was determining what I needed)
So much has been distorted in the 50 + years of religious teaching that I sat under. So nowadays I don’t say much in the ways I once did with words of “dear God”… I don’t ask for much. I don’t journal much.
This is an incredibly healthy process. For me, when I realized that most of my prayers came from anxiety and that led me to always ask God to do what I thought best, my prayer life took a dive as well. No he doesn’t bless me from my agenda, he saves me from it. He’s not the fairy Godfather turning our pumpkins into chariots. He’s with us in the reality of negotiating a broken world and all the while inviting us to know him better. As love began to win me, my prayer life too a real shift. First it seemed to die, then something more real and rewarding began to emerge.
His love built greater trust in me and I learned the power of prayer that rises from growing trust. They weren’t “fix this” or “fix that” prayers; they were honest pleas for him to help me see what he was doing in the circumstances I was in and how I could be a part of that. So instead of turning my anxiety into prayer requests, I just began to pour out my anxieties to him, knowing that love needed to win me into safer space. “God, why am I so anxious about this?” “Father, what do you want to show me of yourself.” “How do I keep my attitude free with the frustration of a broken car, or because someone else forgot an appointment, and how might you redeem this situation for your glory?”
I began to look toward him in everything and now pray more confidently for those things that God seems to nudge me towards. Transformation is a great process. Isn’t it fun to discover new things, to see movement in our journeys, to lose the religious habits of the past and find a real way to relate to him?
I love all that stuff and I love that it is happening in this woman as well.
What an amazing season when you risk the illusionary safety of the status quo and begin to let Jesus show you just how real this journey was meant to be.