Ok. I know I have this whole missionary thing going on, and I'm married to a pastor, and I sincerely love Jesus, but, despite all that, somehow I found myself living a life without prayer. I mean, I still pray occasionally, like before dinner when we have company, but lately it hasn't been often, and it hasn't been very sincere.
I used to pray earnestly, with a deep sense of longing and appreciation to a God I thought listened. I used to pray daily, habitually, one might even say religiously, as an act of obedient worship and supplication to a God I thought cared. I used to pray intentionally, with a heart full of gratitude and wonder for a God I thought loved me.
I used to pray.
I used to pray and listen, listen and pray. I used to hear God, and He used to hear me, because I used to think prayer mattered, and that maybe when I prayed it actually made a difference in the world. Like many of the things that used to define and direct my faith, I used to think prayer was important to my spiritual formation. And like many of the things that used to define and direct my faith, eventually I started to question its value.
As I questioned and wondered and prodded for understanding, my prayer life went from being a rich, meaningful experience to a tool I use to fight insomnia. Prayer became the kind of mindless activity that is so boring and un-engaging, it practically induces a coma. Like counting sheep, or taking slow breaths -- if I can't sleep, I pray.
Initially, I was turned off by seeing so many flippant promises of prayer from people I knew wouldn't actually follow though. And by “people” I mean me. I used to do this all the time. Requests would be uttered, needs would be shared, sad stories were told, and I promised I would pray for them, but I rarely made good on my commitment. I almost never actually prayed for people after I told them I would. For me, “I'll pray for you” became like the Christian equivalent of “Take care.” It was simply a means for me to end a conversation with another person and walk away from them without assuming any personal responsibility for their future. Or their needs. Or their pain.
It was like a spiritual easy out.