I'm thankful my hubby and I each grew up with families who ate meals together. Because now? When 7 pm rolls around, we are committed to push through the chaos, to get 6 bums in chairs, to chat face-to-face and shove food in our mouths.
We value relationships built around a table.
I also love that our boys want to pray before eating; each saying their own rote version. One example: "Dear Lord, thank you for this day. Pray that we have a good day tomorrow. Amen."
Yes, it's quick & simple. But he understands a couple things: he can thank God and trust God with his requests.
Recently I had a reader ask me about her adult prayer life, how she felt stuck in a self-centered mode, a give-me, give-me attitude.
She was looking for advice on how to break free from "me" prayers.
When I listened to my son's prayer tonight I heard what she was talking about. Yes, there was gratitude. Yes, there was an acknowledging and asking God for help. But it was all for his benefit.
But this makes sense for his age. Children come out sounding like "Finding Nemo" seagulls, repeating "mine, mine, mine".
Yet, as we mature in faith, so must our prayer life.
Of course, I don't consider myself a prayer expert. But I've said a few prayers in my 30-odd years of following Jesus, so here are my humble thoughts on the matter.
In answering the question, "How do I have a more God-centered prayer life?" , let's begin here. . .
What's was God's experience?
As a speech-language pathologist, I analyze communication, including conversations. Recently, with recording interviews for the podcast, I'm even more interested in the process of one person taking turns talking with another.
To be honest, it's a bit painful to go back and listen to my own conversation. Especially horrifying to hear all the times I interrupted my guest, thinking what I had to say was so important.
But rarely do I end a Skype call and consider the interviewee's experience. Typically, I'm more concerned with my half of the conversation ("I shouldn't have said that." "Oh, I forgot to talk about that." "Why did I bring up that topic?").
Anyone else leave a conversation consumed with what they should/shouldn't have said?
It's important to remember prayer is communicating.
We are speaking to God. Even though it feels like a one-sided conversation, we must remember it's not.
God. is. listening.
In the present, active tense of the verb. Every conversation has at least two people, taking turns talking and listening.
Before we utter a word or silently pray, we must take a second to consider God's experience during our prayers.
Of course, I would never assume we can read God's mind (this post answers my thoughts on God being incomprehensible). But I do think it sets our hearts in the right place to consider our heavenly Father leaning in, interested in what we say.
The first step in having God-centered prayers is to believe God is listening and to consider His side of the conversation.
If you were in the car with your child, listening to every word he said, as much as you love hearing about all he is thinking and doing. Wouldn't it be a slam dunk moment if he praised you for being such a fabulous mom?
"Oh mom, I know you were created to be my mom. You are the most talented cook. You love me well by caring for my needs. I'm so sorry for disobeying you. Thank you for taking me to school each day. Would you buy me a Lego set?"
(I snuck in that last one to show how one request, even though we love to give good gifts to our kids, changes the tone a bit. AmIright?)
Even Jesus begins praising his father in our model prayer: "Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. . ." (Matthew 6:9-10)
I'm kinda jumping ahead about the how to pray. In future posts I'll write more about the "what to say" and the "when to pray".
Application: When praying today consider God's experience.
How does this awareness change your prayers?
And if you have additional questions you'd like to discuss about prayer, please leave a comment below or email me.
PART TWO: Is it selfish to make requests of God?