Prayer is the best way to bring a muddled mind back into alignment. Prayer helps tremendously with decision making. But it only works when one actually prays.
Do you pray?
Don’t wince if your answer is no. Let’s just talk about it, because sometimes we have bad ideas about prayer that keeps us from what, I believe, God created us naturally to do.
The first thought I have is that we should think of prayer like fishing. My dad always says, “There’s good fishing and there’s great fishing. Great fishing is when you actually catch something.” So start by realigning your thoughts this way. If we approach prayer as just a conversation with God, than the act of prayer can never be bad. There just might be some prayers that are good, rather than great.
I had a recent conversation with one of my coaching clients about prayer, and I loved her honest admission that she doesn’t pray. Rather than be piously alarmed, her response fascinated me. Not to pray at all would make total sense for an atheist or agnostic, but this is a girl who believes in God. She confidently knows that Jesus loves her and I truly believe she loves him too.
So, I asked her, “Why don’t you pray?”
Again, refreshing honesty, “I don’t think about it, and if I did I’d have to admit that I’m not good at prayer.”
There are two things at work here. Let’s address the latter part of her response first.
God gives us a model for prayer in the sixth chapter of Matthew. He actually says, “This, then, is how you should pray…” That’s enough to get our attention, so please don’t think my advice is meant to steer you in a different direction. The model teaches us mainly that we should begin prayer with God. He’s the main character in all things, so “hallowed be Thy name!”
My argument is in the fact that a model serves as an outline. A tool. A help. If I have to pound a nail in the wall I use a hammer, as a tool to get the job done. I don’t have to be good at it. I just, hopefully, don’t smash my finger in the process. By avoiding prayer, we’ve shot ourselves in the foot with a lie that God won’t listen unless we’re good at talking to him. We then resort to repeating prayers that other people have (in all sincerity) guided us toward until we lose our connection with our living Creator.
The other part of my client’s response was about the struggle we have in thinking about prayer. That’s fair. We’re self-absorbed. We want to write our own story, and we want to be the hero of that story. That’s our sin nature. We all have it. If this is your struggle, I’m not getting the whip out. What will that help? As I suggested to my client, try simply thinking about talking to God. That’s it. Just see if you can think about it sometime soon.
That was one of the action steps I gave my client a few weeks ago, and when we met again I asked, “So, did you think about prayer. Did you think about God last week?”
“Yes, I actually did.”
“Did you pray?”
“No, I just thought about him and about prayer.”
“Okay, great job. That’s awesome! Now, let’s take it one step farther. This coming week, when you think about God again, I’d like you to say ‘Hi‘ to him. Start there. Just say, ‘Hi‘.”
This client of mine is getting closer each day to bigger decisions for her life. I feel it and she feels it too. Sure, I’ve helped her, but when she says “Hi” to her Father in prayer, and then gradually learns to open that natural conversation he’s been patiently waiting for, wow! Watch out. Her life choices will take her in directions she never thought possible. All because of an honest conversation with the King of the Universe.