Learning To Pray

iStockphoto © Skip ODonnell

 Who am I to make suggestions on how to pray?

This one question almost kept this post from being published on Leveraging Life. Satan has been having a field day with me, causing me question if I was worthy of following up my post, Who Is Getting Your Leftovers. That was until early Sunday morning when a favorite quote popped in my head.  It was almost as if I had been given permission. 

 Do not tell people how to live their lives. Just tell them stories. And they will figure out how those stories apply to them. Randy Pausch 

After re-reading Randy’s words from his amazing Last Lecture, I realized sharing the story, my story, is the only role I have in this.  Any application is between you and God. 

So here it goes:

-I was one of those kids who grew up going to church.

-I went through all the CCD education, and even attended parochial school through the tenth grade before moving to Georgia.

-I was taught prayers, learned about religion and God, and followed all the rituals.

But as I matured from teen to adult, I never challenged myself to make the same transition spiritually. It really never occurred to me this was necessary so the prayers of a 12-year-old, became the prayers of a 22-year-old, which became the prayers of a 32-year-old, and then the prayers of a 42-year-old. 

God please bless this business opportunity because of what I can do with it.

God please keep my family healthy and safe while we’re vacationing in Puerto Vallarta.

God please bring me “my one and only” because I’m ready to be married now.

God please do this, please do that, and I promise I won’t ever, ever again. Amen!  

This wasn’t the fault of upbringing…I was lead.

This wasn’t the fault of my Sunday school…I was educated.

This wasn’t the fault of a religion…I was equipped. 

The problem was ME, in my eyes I had graduated and I had quit growing spiritually because there was nothing left to learn. 

I knew all the prayers.

I followed the rituals.

I met my weekly obligation. 

The only role I had was to show up on Sundays to earn the right to send up my list of prayers (wishes) to God. 

For me the radical shift took place when my prayers became a conversations with God,  

It was April 2007 and I had just been moved from the ICU to a Nursing Home at the age of 43. My body was in a war with itself as Sepsis blood infection took hold and the doctors felt this was the best chance for me to recover. This set of circumstances triggered a series of events that led me to question where God was in my life. In my eyes I had been holding up my end of the deal I consummated with God decades ago: 

  • I was going to church at 7:30 every Sunday, so I wouldn’t miss my 9:05 tee-time.
  • I wrote a check each week for what I felt I could spare.
  • I was too busy to serve, but I did pray when I remember to, for those who did serve since they were far less busy than I was. 

The funny thing is when you find yourself in a nursing home and the youngest resident by a decade or two you question a lot of the choices you have made. And if you’re honest with yourself you see how the place you’re in may have more to do with YOU than with God. 

Obviously, there is more to this story than there is time to share here, but in my quest for clarity in the midst of these circumstances, and in the midst of my anger, I found God. Not a God who watched from a distance and judged what He observed, but a real and personal God who knew my name and who wanted a relationship with me. This was a spiritual epiphany that changed my life forever.  

Instead of finding someone to blame, I found a Heavenly Father, which influenced me in such a way my prayer life had to change.  

When you come to know God in a real and personal way, you pray differently. Where there once was ritual and a wish list there is now dialogue and a conversation. You may not always understand where God is leading you, but when it’s personal, it comes down to one simple choice. 

Are you going to lead or are you going to follow? 

For me, if left up to my on doing, I know where those paths will lead so it was time for me to let God lead. 

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5 

It took me quite some time before I felt worthy of approaching prayer as a conversation.  Here are the steps I took to get there. 

Be Humble – humility is a great place to start…after all God is God.  The very fact you pray is the strongest endorsement of this fact.  

Be Grateful –not only for the obvious blessings, but also for those trials in life where God’s plan may not yet be apparent… like finding yourself in a nursing home at 43 years of age.

Be Specific – of what you are asking of Him. He already knows your heart.  He already knows what you need.  Ask!  But, be prepared that your plan and His plan may be two different things.  This is the place where you just have to trust God period.

Hopefully it won’t take you as long to learn the lesson that will change your life! 


trusting God period!

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