Do you pray?
What does it sound like?
Is is a prayer you learned as a child, one recited for a specific purpose?
Is it a self-created prayer, but mentions the same topics in the same order every time?
Is it a different prayer uttered in a different way every time you pray?
When do you pray? Morning? Before meals? Before bed? Daily? On Sundays? Only when you’re really in need?
Do these things even matter– the words you say and the frequency with which you say them, or is prayer really about what’s in your heart?
According to Craig Groeschel’s The Christian Atheist, there exists an entire group of Christians, those who build their lives around their belief in Jesus Christ, who either don’t pray at all, or when they do, believe that prayer isn’t effective.
When I first began reading the chapter on prayer, it blew my mind, mostly because I am a HUGE believer in prayer. In fact, for years I’ve lived my life in a purposeful state of constant prayer.
I pray at specific times of the day, sure, like before meals and before bed, but I strive to have a constant and open communication with God. I pray all the time. About everything. I rarely say “Amen” because I want that heart-line to be open all the time.
But that’s just me.
My husband isn’t like that at all.
He is a strong, God-fearing, Bible believing man who was saved by grace at a young age and has lived his entire adult life as a follower of Jesus Christ.
But he was raised in a very traditional Southern Baptist church. The kind that banned certain types of music in the teenage population and brought in pastors to evangelize hellfire and brimstone.
For him, prayer was boring. It was ritualistic. It was used to scare the life out of others. It was done by those who constantly threw in the “thees” and “thous” and communicated with God like he was the “great and powerful” wizard behind the curtain.
My husband once admitted to me that he wasn’t really sure if God cared about his prayers.
“With war and cancer and people who have real problems, why would God care about the things I pray about?”
This conversation came after we’d been married nearly a decade. For all that time, I’d had no idea that my husband struggled to believe in a powerful prayer life.
And he is not alone.
So many struggle with the idea of prayer– that it’s about the eloquence of your words or the length of the prayer itself.
Surely those who are more “holy” are heard by God first. Surely those who love to pray aloud are those who are heard by God.
But as Groschel points out, there are ways for those who struggle with the power of prayer to realize that prayer changes everything.
It’s about realizing what prayer is and to whom it is.
Realize who you are talking to. The God of the universe. The one who is I Am. The creator. The Savior.
It can feel a bit overwhelming. What do you say to the God of the universe? Whatever you want because here’s the really cool part– He wants to hear from you. He’s excited to hear from you!
Move the focus from yourself onto God. Realize that you are talking to a friend who wants the honesty of your heart– He desires time with you.
When you change your perspective on who you are talking to (the God of the universe) and why (because he wants to hear from you), it helps you to realize that every thought, fear, joy and pain you experience is a treasure to him, and he wants you to talk to him about it.
God wants honesty. He wants you to be real with him. He wants truth. He wants your heart with or without the “thees and thous”.
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” Matt 6: 5, 7
And that’s what prayer is– an honest conversation with the God who created you and knows you by name.
If you feel like prayer just doesn’t make a difference, pray about everything on your heart. God will answer. Maybe not all at once, maybe not quickly. But when he does, you’ll never doubt that prayer works.
I love the verse below because Jesus tells us that prayer works. But he also reminds us that when we pray, we must have a heart that is free from unforgiveness and hatred.
“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:24-25
Prayer is powerful. Prayer changes things. And more than that, it changes people.
And the best part is that God wants to hear from you.
He doesn’t care about the words you use. He doesn’t care about whether or not your prayers are eloquent and well thought out.
What he cares about is that you take the time to talk to him and that you talk to him honestly.
It’s that simple.
There is so much more wonderful information in this chapter, but I leave you with one of my favorite comedians and his hilarious take on staunch, strict prayer.
Hopefully it will give you a chuckle and help you to remember that prayer is for everyone, no matter what.
I pray for you that you’ll find the joy in the power of prayer.
Share with me: How can I pray for you this week?
9 responses to “The Christian Atheist: Do You Believe in Prayer?”
Sometimes I’m so comfortable I feel He’s right next to me. Then there are other times I’m blown away by His power or what feels like His distance. This faith thing is a crazy ride.
100% agree, Wendy. 100% agree.
This is why I LOVE this particular verse:
My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” ~Psalm 27:8
I believe in the power of prayer and I believe God wants us to be in relationship with Him….but sometimes I struggle with the discipline of prayer. I want to be in constant communication with him….but all too often, I pray in the morning, say my Amen, and then go about my day.
Beautiful verse, Katie. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how every single verse of scripture is so packed with knowledge. It’s beautifully overwhelming.
I feel closest to God when I’m praying a mix of both personal prayers and more traditional prayers or prayers written other people.
I have Divine Hours (Pocket Edition) by Phyllis Tickle on my iphone. Going through those prayers helps me to keep the focus on God.
I haven’t read that. I might just add it to my list!
Love, love, love, Jen. Prayer can be a confusing thing…the whole idea that we’re supposed to ask for something, but God won’t necessarily answer it in the way we “want”… But prayer is for us, so we grow closer to the Lord. Like I said…it can be confusing. 😛 But I love your thoughts here!
You can pray that I find joy today despite difficulties. Love you!
Definitely praying for you, friend. And yes, it is hard to grasp that God would bother to answer us at all. But for me, it’s the hope that keeps me going. 🙂
Jen, I too am like you in that I like to converse all day, but just recently, I’ve discovered the joy of a daily time (I blogged about it today, actually). Love that definition of prayer being honest conversation. Thanks for this post!