Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Faith in Prayer

Prayer requires great faith. A couple weeks ago, my pastor said that, of all the spiritual disciplines, we often pray the least because it requires the greatest faith from us.

My prayer life has suffered since returning from Boston in September. I can very easily attribute this to time. After all, that's the popular thing to do in Christianity and in my life. It's not that 40 hours of work per week requires more time from me, but it makes my time more rigid and thus more inconvenient to do things like exercise, read, make phone calls, and/or spend time with the Lord. But this excuse lets me off the hook too easily.

Prayer requires too much faith from me. Don't get me wrong, I love prayer. But what I love even more than prayer is prayer and action. In fact, if I'm really honest, I think I like the action better than the prayer because I can control it. I know that I will get stuff done or at least work hard enough in trying that the world surely can only find me blameless. Prayer, on the other hand, places the action in God's hands. And, in reality, I don't like it being there. I don't trust it. I don't have the faith.

So I often believe that God exists and say that God exists but I refuse to act like he exists. Specifically, I don't pray for him to do things in my life. Functional atheism, I've heard it called.

I prayed a lot in college because I found myself in situations where I knew I was not adequate. On a daily basis, I encountered conversations and responsibilities where I knew I was utterly incompetant. Nothing I could do would guarantee success, so I obviously needed God's help. Thus, I prayed for God to do what I could not.

Nowadays, life is easier. I have to put books on a shelf. Beyond that, I don't really have to do much else (except make decisions about my future, care for my co-workers, family, and friends, grow in my relationship with God - important stuff I can easily discard as tangential when it's inconvenient or hard). It is a lie that I can do anything on my own without God, but it's so much easier to believe this lie when things seem easy. My facade of control seems to work in this life of ease. Prayer is often the odd-man out because I don't functionally believe it really will do anything, certainly not anything I can't do on my own.

And then there's Nehehmiah, praying for days when he really doesn't have the time. There's Jesus, so often with the people yet consistently slipping away to pray in solitude to his father. There's the throne of Heaven, where the prayers of the saints are incense wafting before God and moving him to respond in power with thunder and lightning.

Oh Lord, I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.

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