“My life is hectic; I’m on the go constantly. I suppose I should spend more time praying but, honestly, I don’t see it happening and I can’t honestly say that I think it’s a problem. I take care of my kids and my home; I’m involved in community activities and have a part time job. I know I’m not perfect but I think I’m basically a good person. A least I’m trying and I’m not worried about it.”
A mother made this comment during a discussion about the spiritual growth of children. Several other parents nodded as she spoke. Her thoughts were typical and revealing.
It’s helpful to begin a discussion of prayer by undoing some common assumptions. The first is that prayer is something to feel guilty about. God loves and cares for you constantly; can’t you spend at least a few minutes talking with him each day! Parents and preachers have been making this kind of well-meaning statement for centuries but does it really make sense. A parent may long for a phone call from us; a friend may hope for a letter; a spouse may experience loneliness, even rejection without our expression of love but God isn’t in need of our attention. It’s we who need to give God attention.
Prayer is being aware of what God is doing in life and aligning our desire and determination with the divine intention. We need to be in awe at the reality, beauty and promise of our existence. We need to be aware that the chance to be part of creation is a gift, not a necessity. We need to know that our actions advance or inhibit the gift of life that God is giving. All those needs depend on paying close attention to the world around us and the hope within us.
When we get over the habit of thinking of prayer as an obligation to God, we have a better chance of moving past normal resistance we feel to demands imposed from outside and come to see prayer as a need we respond to – for our benefit and the benefit of the world that’s our community and home.