When Our Prayer Life Changes…

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.


10 thoughts on “When Our Prayer Life Changes…”

  1. Dear Wayne, I appreciate you so very much. I am reading, “Finding Church”, for the second time. It is reaching a place in my heart that needed a balm such as is revealed in your book. I was in a very legalistic bondage type of institutional religion for 53 years. My husband and I both left that religion in 2003. He left this life in 2006. I am almost 85 and have been so thankful to be learning things that are setting me free from this bondage. I laugh and then I cry, thanking God for teaching me of His most wonderful love and how to be free from bondage of legalistic religion. I am thankful to you for not manifesting an angry bashing of churches. I have very dear friends and family still in this same religion. I just need more, much more than it has to offer. My Lord started calling me from such as that as long ago as 1973. He must think I am very hard headed for it to take me so long but, as I said, the legalistic bondage is more of a cult and has a tight hold on people. But I can see some who are being called out. I know this by some subtle things I hear them say. Thanks again for your help.
    LaRue Campbell

  2. Everything said here is relevant and helpful.

    I might add one encouragement to “someone,” though. If you journaled before, and found that writing out things to process what was going on in your life (with God or yourself) to be helpful (at least at some point in the past), I hope that you can find a new space to take up the writing with more earnest again. For some of us, talking out loud is helpful. For some of us, we desperately need the interaction with other people. For some of us, getting really quiet is useful. For some of us, writing (for me, sporadic longhand, in countless notebooks) has remained a helpful way to process and think and pray (though I need the other things, too, when I can find them). Which is all to say, don’t throw any babies out when you are getting rid of the bath water. Writing/journaling may still prove to be a helpful place to sort out some of this journey. It may have to be different from what it was before. The purpose and way of pursuing it may change, but it may still be an instrumental part of how you and God sort things out along the way. I have been moved from “Dear God” (as some kind of an obligatory salutation to the One who determines my eternal destiny) to something closer to “Hey Jesus” as a conversation with a dear friend to help me think about/process what is happening in me or in the world around me (and with a someone who seems interested in whatever I am facing and feeling something about). Writing is a place to be brutally honest (with myself and with God), and it has moved toward a part of a dialog where God really seems to bring me to answers of some of the struggles I am in, even if it takes some time. It is less now about getting my way and more about learning to see things as the Father does, but writing can really be helpful. For some of us, this is the way we are wired, and I would hate to see you lose that just because of the baggage you have come to see it carrying in your past. May God bring you into His rest, whatever mediums prove helpful in that unfolding journey.

    1. I’m with you, Craig, re. the value of journaling. I’d be bereft without that avenue of communication. For one thing it enables me to reflect on the faithful persevering way God has gently led me along. If I hadn’t written the daily stuff I’d likely forget most of it. Even the unforgettable stuff!

      I do know journaling isn’t everyone’s thing, but I’d recommend a visit to Mark Virkler’s website where he talks about two-way journaling. I heard his teaching 20+ years ago–it was a gift that keeps on giving.

  3. “We read to know we’re not alone” the saying goes. That sure happened when I read this.
    When the first prayer shift happened with me, I just went with it because it came with a flood of God-love. But off and on I tend to get tripped into thinking I “should” be praying a certain way. It becomes silly, really. I’m going along relating to Jesus and then I stop and become all conscious of my words and basically leave Him out of the conversation. After reading this I understand why I have such an aversion to prayer chains. And prayer acronyms, which feel like being given a script to talk to your best friend.
    Thank you both so much.

    1. A script to talk to your best friend, that’s great! I’m the telemarketer with my rote manipulation aiming to twist the arm of the Most High. That picture just makes me laugh. Thanks!

  4. I served as an assistant pastor in one of the largest congregations in my country. Dissatisfied with performance -based religion, I moved to another upcoming large congregation where I served as deacon with silent promises of pastorship in future if…you know what I mean. Well, of course the hunger refused to go away. I discovered that I get more aware of God’s love and who He is when I am alone with Him. And it was so when I searched the scriptures -from Abraham to our LORD Jesus Christ even down to the disciples. The transformation began in 2005
    I came in contact with your writing about 3 years ago. First was “So you don’t want to go to church anymore “, then “The shack “by William Young and “He loves me “. All these I have read three times over. I have not been able to get any other writings of yours nor friends because in my country, it is only one bookshop that I know of that stock such discipleship books because the owner is in the same journey.
    Now,Brother Wayne, l will love to post some excerpts of your writings in my Facebook space with my African experience and in African way. I am asking for permission to do so and I will send you my first post before I do.
    My country is deep in religion. I have had some of the experiences you recounted in those books among my friends and family. Of course I’ve been there too. I will love to see some of my Facebook friends in this journey and how to do so is by sharing what God is doing in my life.
    Reply please. Shalom

  5. Brother Wayne, my name is Ngozi obiefuna,. I wrote a mail to you yesterday. I am still awaiting a response. Please do. Thanks

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