Conversations, Hurdles, and Prayer
I love to talk. Real talk. Heart talk. Tough talk. Fun talk. Externally processing helps me breathe better and connecting with people – really getting to know them – brings me genuine joy.
So, if I say what’s in my head out loud to you, I can make more sense of it. If I can throw enough questions at you so you tell me what’s up with you, then my cup is full. When my husband comes home from a long day at work, I prefer to dump-truck all the day’s details on his face the moment he walks in the door. Then, proceed to ask him 20 questions per minute about his day until I feel like we are vibing. He loves me.
But what about actual conversations with God? How many of those have I had? I’m not talking about some formal, obligatory shout out just because it’s expected of me.
“Dear God, thank you for this day. Thank you for our food and bless it to our bodies. In Jesus name, AMEN.”
I’m not gonna lie, that’s a pretty solid example of my prayer life for years. I could shoot the breeze and connect with people all day long, but something was severely lacking in the prayer department. Why? A conversation is defined as a talk, ESPECIALLY AN INFORMAL ONE, between two people, in which news and ideas are exchanged.
So, do I share real news and real ideas with God when I pray? Do I LISTEN to what He is saying to me? It’s by the grace of God that I can pray or even desire to pray. He is helping me dive deeper. I have come across a couple hurdles so far in this whole God calling me deeper into prayer race.
Hurdle One: Pray Regularly
In June 2016, I was at an FCA Coaches camp at Black Mountain, NC when during huddle-time a woman next to me - who had been particularly quiet most of the week - was asked to pray. She talked to God like she was comfortable with Him. I wanted that. I honestly can’t recall her exact prayer but I remember thinking and feeling, “Wow, I wish I could talk to God like that.” I didn’t even pray about it or ask God if He could help me pray like her. It was just a thought.
“…You know my thoughts even when I am far away…You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD.” (Psalm 139:2,4 NLT)
That was Chris; the next day she approached me and another friend and told us God had laid it on her heart to invite us to pray with her one morning a week. The other friend was Ann; that’s how we began praying together weekly and essentially the origin of this blog! God did that. Furthermore, ANOTHER friend invited me and someone else to pray weekly with her the very SAME WEEK. God did that too.
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20 ESV)
A couple years later God did it again. My first friend in Albany invited me to pray with her weekly and THIS girl set a timer the first time we prayed together. A timer for 30 minutes. Pretty sure I had never talked to God for more than 5 minutes before that. I started getting my Bible out and praying scripture in Psalms because I would run out of things to say. I never run out of things to say. Why did I not know what to say?
It says in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 that we are to pray continually. I’m not praying continually yet, but I am praying more now than I used to. That’s a good thing.
Hurdle Two: Confession and Honesty
My understanding of confession and my own sin has evolved over the years. The story of Maddie – the long nitty-gritty one – includes me having the mindset that I “WAS” a willful rebel who “WAS” an awful sinner. God intervened and basically ripped me out of my chosen yuck, so now I am pretty awesome because I am too afraid to be “that bad” again.
“Dear God please forgive me where I have fallen short. AMEN.”
The above prayer, more or less, is a summary of me confessing sin for decades. When I even said it. I ended up becoming so overwhelmed with regular fits of rage and emotion that I couldn’t explain what was going on inside of me. Why? Unconfessed sin. There was an actual 77-page document written on my heart that hadn’t even been opened yet but I had no idea. Insert confession by God’s grace:
“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so you can be healed.” James 5:16
There’s no way I could say it out loud. Ewww. A recurring lust struggle in my mind of acting out sexual immorality and adultery. I had dreamed it. Felt sick about it. I had daydreamed it. Enjoyed the thought only to feel sicker about it 4 seconds later. Had I prayed about it? Nope. I didn’t actually DO it and wouldn’t really do THAT, right? So, does it even count? Except it was plaguing me and affecting my ability to enjoy time with my husband. Something had to give.
So, I finally volcano-erupted it to my husband one night fully expecting him to be disgusted, angry, and sick about it. Instead, he prayed with me as I repented and confessed it in detail to God and begged for His mercy and help and freedom.
Then something beautiful happened. He said, “So how does it feel?” I responded with a sigh of relief because I physically felt like I could breathe better and told him. Amazing. Then he felt safe to be honest with ME about his own struggles and hidden sin. Repeat honest confession to spouse. Repeat praying honest prayers of confession and repentance. Thank you, Jesus, for the healing and cleansing your word promised and delivered.
“Therefore we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
Hurdle Three: The Father God
This one is hard for me to talk about. I am basically in a place of recognizing this hurdle exists. Mustering up the strength and bravery to run at it with all I have and trust that I can “jump over” it. When someone says Father God or God the Father what picture comes to mind? Who am I talking to? What do I really believe? Not what I should say because I’ve learned what should be said. What’s real?
In their book, Freedom Tools, Andy Reese and Jennifer Barnett explain that our perception of our earthly fathers can create lies and false concepts about God. These misperceptions can block our ability to have intimacy with Him. So, I see God the Father through a veil of reality created out of my own unique childhood experiences with my dad. I have acquired ungodly beliefs.
No parent is perfect, so this is not disrespect for my earthly father. It is what it is. I wasn’t very close with my dad growing up, but I wanted us to be close. I would try to figure out what sport to play or what words to say to make him pleased with me. It terrified me when he was angry with me and crushed me when he was disappointed. We didn’t talk much so of course we never reconciled. Although I wanted to please him and make him proud, I was never quite sure how he felt about me.
I am still wresting, with tears streaming down my face, with how my relationship with my dad shaped my flawed perspective of the Father God. Someday maybe I’ll put it in words. Just know the struggle is real but the struggle is not over. It’s a process of identifying lies I believe about God and praying through them, learning to replace them with the truth. In Luke 15, the story of the prodigal son, the lost sheep, and the lost coin all end in celebration. Can I see God the Father has having a celebration in my honor? I’m getting there.
I know in my head that I should wholeheartedly believe what the Bible says about God. That should be the only lens through which I view Him. I want that. Sin taints that. I am getting there. In Mark 9 Jesus was talking to a man struggling with belief and He told him, “All things are possible for one who believes.” The guy responds by crying out, “I believe; help my unbelief!” I feel this guy.
So, that’s where I am landing today. Prayer changes things. I’ve learned to pray more, and to pray honestly with regular confession, and I’m figuring out who the Father is that I pray to…
Wanna jump some hurdles too?