“His prayer was nothing more than a sense of the presence of God, his soul being at that time unaware of anything but Divine love.” – Joseph de Beaufort speaking of Brother Lawrence, Practice The Presence of God
I read a quote from a wildly successful pastor and author this week that said, “The primary task of the pastor is to teach people how to pray.” Although I believe that prayer is vital and agree that pastors should teach their communities how to pray, I am fearful that in doing so (primarily) we have neglected to teach a much more basic and fundamental element in approaching God—how to “BE.”
When I accepted Christ, the first thing I was taught to do was how to pray. I was taught to pray using the “ACTS” formula and other various techniques of approaching God in prayer. Although beneficial to a degree, looking back, I find it odd that no one ever taught me how to simply “be” with Jesus first. Instead, I was rushed into an awkward conversation with a God I didn’t know or was completely comfortable with to be honest.
Over the years, my prayer life became extremely frustrating. Words and sentences constantly got in the way. Prayer became a complicated code to crack where word order and sentence structure mattered. My prayers became dry and predictable; laced with religious phrases and sentences that I repeated over and over. Because of how I was taught, I believed that I needed to start each prayer time with deep confession and repentance or risk the chance of God not hearing my plea for help. But when I would pray, I would hear a little voice in my head say, “Uh-uh…not so fast! Remember what your pastor said? How can you be so selfish as to ask me for something without first telling me how great I am or thanking me for something? What’s wrong with you? Now, let’s hear some adoration and a little thanksgiving and then you can get to confession.”
Needless to say, this confused the living crap out of me.
So, I’ve thrown in the towel.
Over the years, I’ve traded sentences for silence and it’s been the most freeing thing I’ve ever done. By God’s grace, I wake up every morning between 5am – 6am and slip into our sitting room where I light a single candle. There, in the darkness, before this gentle reminder of the presence of Christ, I sit as simply and silently as I possibly can. When the desire comes over me to launch into my usual time of confession—I bit my lip. When I feel the need to “invite” God’s presence in the room—I shut up. When I’m tempted to rattle off all my needs to God—I gently turn my palms up trusting the Father already knows my needs. I refuse to try to move God and win His favor by my words anymore.
I’ve adopted Brother Lawrence’s renegade approach to prayer when he wrote:
“I have discontinued all forms of devotion and set prayers but those to which my heart obliges me. I make it my job to only persevere in His holy presence…by a simple attention and general fond regard to God…an habitual, silent, and secret conversation of the soul with God.”
If you can relate to my story, I deeply encourage you to throw in the towel with me. Please, for God sake, try something different! It’s ok! Trade in your sentences for silence for a week and see what happens. It doesn’t have to be at 5am in the morning sitting in front of a flickering candle. Choose a time and place that is best for you and sit as simply and silently as you possibly can. Fight off every desire to take control of those hallowed moments by hijacking them with your hollow words. Quit praying and try “being” for once. Then, once you understand how to “be” with the Lord, you will understand how to speak to and with Him.
“And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat? “Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.” The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply.” – Jesus (Matthew 6:5-12 – MSG)
Try this for a week and leave me a comment and let me know how you are doing. Please?