I was raised in the Church.
Any time the doors were open, we were there. Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, Wednesday nights, youth events, lock-ins, whatever. It didn’t matter. We were there. For the first 18 years of my life, the Church was my identity.
The home I grew up in was one of love, compassion, faith, and family. We prayed before every meal, and more often than not, did family devotions together (which I couldn’t see the value of at the time, but now that I have kids, completely understand.)
I remember going off to college with grand ambitions to change the world. I was going to take Oregon State by storm in the name of Jesus. Win the campus. People would be getting saved by the thousands because of what myself and the 48 other guys I lived with were up to. The Christian fraternity I lived in held weekly prayer meetings, worship nights, bible studies, and everything else you can think of.
Living at Varsity House taught me a lot of things. I learned how to make a perfect grilled cheese in a cast iron skillet. I learned how to do laundry. I learned that Christians aren’t perfect. Sometimes they come home drunk, throw up in the hallway, and then get up and lead worship the next morning. I learned that it was okay for faith to be messy. It was okay that you didn’t have everything figured out. It was okay to watch rated R movies and listen to Eminem. You could do those things and still be a Christian.
There is one thing that I didn’t learn from my 4 years with 49 Christian men.
I never learned how to pray.
I prayed before finals. I prayed when I was too poor to afford gas, that God would let my car get home on the fumes in my tank. I prayed that the Beavers would beat whatever team they were playing.
I said a lot of words, but I’m not convinced that I ever learned how to pray.
Fast forward ten years to the present day.
I’ve been married for eight years to an incredible woman, and I have two beautiful daughters. I attend an incredibly healthy church, and have an incredible community of people around me who love and encourage and inspire me.
And I’m still not convinced I know how to pray.
What do you do when you forget how to pray?
What do you do when you grew up in the Church, and should have all of this figured out, but no matter what you do, your prayers hit the roof and fall back to earth, crushing your chest under their weight? What do you do when you’ve prayed the same prayers for days that turned into weeks that turned into months, that turned into years, only to be deafened by the silence of God?
If prayer is the central way that we communicate with Jesus, should it scare me that I feel like I have no idea how to talk to Him? Should it concern me that I feel like more often than not, I’m missing the most basic element of life with Jesus?
This is where I am living.
Is this the new norm? Am I destined to never again hear from God? Am I destined to live in the shadow of his silence? Will my ears and my heart ever be filled with anything but nothing?
I think I know what you’re going to say.
“If you are having a hard time praying or hearing God speak, read the Scriptures. That’s how He most often speaks to His children.”
I know this. At least, in my head I know this.
The problem is, lately I don’t even want to read scripture. I don’t. I can’t remember the last time I read a scripture and was impacted. I can’t recall the last time I heard God speak to me about anything. I want to, but most days, it seems so far away. Like it’s just out of reach. Like if I could just reach a little further, try a little harder, or say the right words. So close, but so far away.
I don’t mean this to sound melancholy, or say it to get pity from anybody. I have a good life. I’m blessed with a good job, a healthy family, and incredible friends. I have a roof over my head, a furnace that keeps me warm, and enough food to make myself sick. I am a blessed man.
I’m not going to lay blame at the feet of the Church, but I haven’t heard much in the way of prayer from the pulpit in my life. Sure, I’ve heard people say things in passing, or maybe it’s a bullet point on a fill-in-the-blank note sheet one Sunday, but I can’t recall a church that I’ve been in take a good long look at the theology of prayer.
I think as a generation, we need to be taught how to pray. To be taught what it really means to seek God. We are a generation of over-educated Christians. We have more resources at our disposal than any generation through human history, and yet I feel like we have the weakest, most anemic prayer lives of any generation (speaking personally at least.).
I read stories about revivals in cities across America where folks would gather to pray, and commit not to leave until they saw Jesus move. Can you imagine? Showing up to church to pray with that attitude?
“Okay Jesus, here’s the deal. We believe You’re real and alive and powerful. We believe You heal and transform, and we aren’t leaving this place until You do.”
I can’t even imagine what our church would look like today if we lived with that kind of faith. If we actually took God at His word, and called Him on the promises He’s made. I think we can get there, but we need to learn to pray. We need to learn to seek Him, but we need help.
If you still know how to pray, then I beg you to intercede for those of us who don’t.
Pray that God would reignite that spark in us that once existed. That spark to hear Him speak. That spark to read His scriptures and soak in them. That spark to try and live my life as closely in tune with Him as we can.
Because right now, that spark is dead. It’s out. And I need it to be reignited.