I struggle with prayer. I know somewhere, someplace, some Christian has the whole prayer thing figured out, but I don’t. As a teenager and young adult, I did the ‘prayer list’. I kept a list of prayers, and marked them off as they got answered. It was supposed to grow my faith, but then I started wondering whether life events tend to work out regardless of whether I put them on my list. I continued to pray long lists of prayers for years, then my life crisis hit, and everything changed.
The life crisis overtook my every thought and emotion. At first, I only had one prayer. I would watch the second hand on my watch, and as it hit twelve I prayed God would help me survive until the second hand came around and hit twelve again. As the days went buy, I gradually changed to saying that prayer every 5 minutes, then 20 minutes, and then every hour. Eventually, the timing was not exact, but I found myself praying the prayer throughout the day.
The crisis didn’t get better, but I eventually was able to add one more prayer to my life, that the crisis would be over. For 13 years, that was the only other prayer I was able to say each day. Then, after more than 13 years, my life amazingly, suddenly, and miraculously changed. My situation wasn’t suddenly fixed, but it clearly took a new direction. My prayer was answered, not necessarily in the way I had imagined, but it was miraculously answered. In a odd sort of way, it was very anti-climatic. After 13 years of praying for one thing, I was exhausted, suddenly not knowing what to pray for. Amazingly, it even seemed I forgot how to pray.
The miracle that changed my life brought a new set of problems. The miracle for which I had been praying for 13 years had brought with it family struggles that I was ill equipped to handle. The new found family struggles were very unexpected, and confused me so terribly that I didn’t know what to pray for. Years of stress and conflict had left their toll.
I found anew all those recited prayers that traditional Baptist and non-denominational churches frown upon. I rediscovered the Lord’s prayer, I discovered the phrase “Lord have mercy” from the early Christian fathers, and I discovered the written prayers in the Book of Common Prayer. I found myself still not able to carry on a conversation with God, but the written prayers of historical Christianity have become my only outlet for praying to God.
I am currently on a quest to discover more. As I find myself unable to carry on a simple conversation with God, I continue to pursue history for solutions. I look at the history of both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox branches of Christianity. I find their ideas on praying with the community of Saints, both present and past, very interesting. However, somewhere in the back of my mind my Baptist teachings seem to be stopping me.
I still don’t understand it all, and the older I get the less I understand. I thought as I get older that prayer would get easier, but it only gets more mysterious and challenging. Somewhere in the recess of my heart is the nagging hope that one day it will all be worth it.