May 4, 2023

I try to pay attention to the things God is teaching me in my life. I believe that God uses varied methods to get our attention through repeated messages (and if you are as dense as I am, you need many, many repetitions).

For the past year, I have felt God impressing upon my soul the importance of prayer. The idea of prayer has risen up in various conversations with church members and through my own spiritual experiences. Clearly, there is something God is wanting me to learn about prayer.

One of the books I’ve been reading lately is called Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools, written by Tyler Staton, a pastor serving in Portland, Oregon. Staton begins the book talking about four of the most common reasons why people are often afraid to dive deeply into prayer and why prayer can help combat those fears. During the month of May on my Pastor’s Blog, I’d like to explore those four fears and the four reasons to persist in prayer.

The first fear people have about prayer is:

  1. We Don’t Pray for Fear of Being Naïve

Recently, I went to lunch with a friend. This friend chose a restaurant I’d never been to. A day or so before our lunch, I looked up the menu of the restaurant online and meticulously chose what I would order. My friend, however, didn’t do that. Instead, he was handed a menu at the table and oohed and ahhed at the items. I had a great lunch with my friend, but I found myself wishing that I had let myself simply show up to the restaurant with no plan like him.

There is very little in our modern world that we cannot discover simply through Googling. I think that ease-of-access to information made us wary of being ignorant or unknowing in our lives. We all want to appear to be experts at living our best lives, at knowing all information, and appearing confident about what we are doing. We are afraid of appearing naïve.

But, Staton says, prayer is the ultimate act of submission. He writes, “To pray is to risk being naïve, to risk believing, to risk playing the fool. To pray is to risk trusting someone who might let you down. To pray is to get our hopes up. And we’ve learned to avoid that. So we avoid prayer.” (14)

To combat that fear of naivete, Staton says:

  1. Pray Because You’re Overwhelmed

When we pray, we are willing to admit that we do not have everything figured out. Our post-Enlightenment culture has taught us the false narrative of human progress. Many of us have bought into the myth that knowledge is power and the more we know, the closer to perfection we are. While that may help us with a math test, it’s not going to give us a meaningful life.

Instead, prayer is openly admitting to God (and to ourselves) that we are broken creatures in desperate need of saving. Take these lines from the prayer found in Psalm 55:

My heart is in anguish within me;
the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fear and trembling come upon me,
and horror overwhelms me.
(Psalm 55:4-5)

The psalmist refuses to admit that they have everything figured out. Instead, they are throwing themselves on the mercy of God and bravely stating the truth: they are overwhelmed.

If you need a starting place, consider this prayer from Kate Bowler and Jessica Richie’s book The Lives We Actually Have:

For Small Steps When You Feel Overwhelmed

Life has unraveled. All my plans, wrecked. My hopes, impractical.
And it seems daunting to imagine what comes next.

The bills that need paying.
The texts that need responding to.
The loneliness that seeps in every night.

Blessed are you who need reminding that,
yes, a lot of things aren’t fixable or even tackle-able right now,
but there’s something you might try instead.
Taking that tiny step that might make today a smidgen lighter.
Maybe not easier or necessarily better – but lighter.

Being extra generous to a stranger or hopping in bed a little earlier.
Asking a friend to grab coffee or listening for the birds
instead of doom-scrolling on Twitter.
Setting down our to-do lists and picking up a paintbrush
for no reason at all except joy.

May we be people who anchor ourselves to the now.
Not allowing our minds to skip to the what-ifs
or the what-will-happen-whens.

Blessed are you trying to put aside the “everything is possible” mentality.
You who know that sheer effort will not put these pieces back together.
You who have taken yourself off the hook for perfection,
and discover rest in “good enough” instead.

One small step,
one deep breath,
at a time.



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