I’ve mentioned before – prayer is not my strong suit. It says somewhere (1 Corinthians, I would venture to guess) that prayer is one of the spiritual gifts. That makes me feel better about things and I totally justify my lackluster prayer life with the notion that I was instead given the gift of telling other people what to do. (And, humility. Lots of it. Clearly.)
However, prayer still remains a vital way to connect with God, so I put my best foot forward. One day I began composing my prayer list for the morning – people and issues (which is usually about people) that came to mind that I felt I should lift up to God. Sometimes the sheer act of listing them out becomes my prayer. I know, it’s probably the cheaters way of prayer. This particular day, after I composed my list, I actually paused to move through it and pray it.
Then, as nearly all non-prayer-gifted people do, my mind got stuck on other things. Namely, prayer. Why was I spending my time in this manner? Didn’t God already know? Why didn’t my listing of people count? Wasn’t God listening to my heart as I wrote these things down? So then, what is required for a prayer to “take”? Is there a requisite minute-count before a thought becomes a prayer? How does prayer fit into the quality/quantity struggle?
Though God is not human and exists beyond what our pretty little minds can understand, I posed the question to myself in light of the parent-chlid relationship in which I currently live. I have some familiarity, being both a) a child and b) a parent. I tried out a few situations to see which might be the best fit and how prayer would fall into the mix. (Note: looking at the subject this way will cast a bit of pettiness to your prayer list. I think this can be both a positive and a negative.)
The Same Room
Kids are running around, playing “chase” while Parent sits presently in the same room, fully paying attention while only slightly passing time on Facebook. Someone runs the wrong way and BAM knocks into the youngest. Kids come crying. Parent saw the whole thing, but really couldn’t do anything to prevent the accident unless the Parent mandated everyone sit down and quietly read books, which no one thought was a good idea.
In this case, prayer is not required for God to know what happened – He saw the whole thing. But prayer is a means to be heard. It’s an act that comforts and helps us to recognize God’s presence. I like this situation because I have difficulty with the notion that God isn’t fully present right here. But if God is fully present right here, why do I feel the need to pray? Prayer becomes about me rather than about God.
The Other Room
Kids are downstairs, playing, mostly nicely with the occasional outbreak of discord. Parent is upstairs, trying to change out the summer clothes for the winter clothes while entertaining the baby. So when moments erupt that shake the equilibrium of peace in the other room, cries come forth requesting a judgement call. Now, the parent is fully aware that the peace will likely never remain constant, not until Daddy comes home. Intervention will likely be required. But, being in the other room, parent is not fully aware of the details of the situation (though the yells and stomping provide ample information). While knowing, s/he does not know. The parent listens to the requests of both parties and tries to rule for the general good of the home.
In this case, prayer is required to bring full understanding to God. It’s not that God’s dumb, or even not present – He’s just turned is present attention to hunger in Africa and chemical warfare in Syria. And it’s not that He doesn’t care. He does care. He cares about how his children treat one another and when issues arise, He takes time to teach them how to interact and to love. But really, complete undivided attention shouldn’t be required in order to practice writing letters or play house.
I kind of like this scenario. God is present, but perhaps we’re not in the spotlight 100% of the time. We have access to God’s attention without being the constant apple of His eye. Prayer serves as a way to keep God in the loop for even the small things, for which he wants to be involved. Pray-ers feel that God cares about the small stuff (because He does), but prayer is a way of turning things over when we’re not as practiced at being good Brothers & Sisters or when things simply don’t go the way we wanted them to.
Neither of these scenarios are perfect nor completely grasp the God-Human relationship. It’s simply the only way my mind can begin to comprehend.
So, what say you, fellow pray-er? In which room is God? Or is there another way of looking through the parent-child window that sees it differently? (Perhaps for you God is out in the garage drinking a beer and doesn’t know anything until we come crying?)