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Prayer is talking to God. You've probably heard that definition three hundred times - or three thousand if you grew up going to church. It makes a lot of sense, right?
The idea that prayer is "just" talking to God is supposed to take the mystery out of this important spiritual discipline. You don't sweat talking to your girlfriend or your kids. You don't have to write down a script (or at least come up with a neumonic-friendly acronym) to prompt your conversation with your spouse, do you?
So if prayer if "just" talking to God, then why does it look so different than my conversation with my husband, for example?
And what if my relationship with my husband looked a lot more like my relationship with the Lord? If I treated conversing with Phillip the same way I treat praying to God, what would that do to my marriage? First of all, I'd have to come up with a plan, otherwise I'd be so busy I'd never stop and talk to my husband at all. So I'd set my alarm for 5:45 every morning and wake my husband up to tell him all the things I was thankful for. Since I'd be pretty tired, I might even have that list written out for me. That way I could just read it to him.
Then I'd move on to my "intercession" portion. I'd tell Phillip all the things I'd hope he'd do for me that day. And if I really wanted to motivate my husband to action, I'd say things like, "Thank you in advance for answering my request." Oh, and I'd be sure to use lots of loftly words so he knew how serious I was. ("Dear compassionate and powerful spouse, if it's in your will, would you please get a gallon of milk on the way home from work tonight? I know that nothing is too hard for you, and I lay this request at your majestic feet.")
On days when I didn't have much else going on, I might even get down the box from the closet that has all of the love letters Phillip wrote to me when were a long-distance engaged couple. I'd pick a letter at random and tell Phillip sweet nothings like, "Thank you, Phillip, that you said that I am an amazing woman who takes your breath away with my love for others and my heart for Christ," or, "I praise you, Phillip, because you once told me that nothing would give you more joy than spending the rest of your life loving me and taking care of me." I'd be thinking about the day ahead by then, so I'd probably just be reading in a monotone, but at least he'd know I was still reading all those letters he wrote.
What that section was over, I'd go on to something my husband would really love. Singing. I'd pick the top three love songs that came to mind that morning, and sing them to him one after another. But I would be a little busy by then, so I'd probably be tidying up the house or starting on the kids' breakfast while I serenaded him each morning.
On mornings when I slept in and missed my appointment with Phillip, I'd force myself to mope for several hours and tell myself I'm an awful wife. When bad things happened to me during the day, I'd blame it on the fact that I didn't have my "quiet time" with my husband.
I hope that your marriage doesn't look or sound anything like this. Which leads me to wonder how my own prayer life got so self-centered, scripted, and dry. A ridiculous "quiet time" with your spouse might be something to laugh at, but a ho-hum prayer life certainly isn't.
My prayer for you - as well as for myself - is for a spirit that yearns to connect with God, a heart that turns to him throughout the day, an intimacy that supersedes formulas, and a dedication that springs from joyful love instead of dutiful discipline.
Random Fact: During the course of our 16-month long-distance courtship, Phillip and I estimate we spent the equivalent of 32 days on the phone.
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