It amazes me how formulaic praying can be. If you ask anyone when you should pray, you get answers like "before you eat," "before you go to bed," or "when something important is going to happen or has happened." Christians have formulated praying to a response to something that has happened or is about to happen, but what if there is something more than just responding? What if we looked at praying as a conversation and not a response?
See, a few years ago while working at a church, life seemed to be going well until a tragic event happened that radically changed my life. As the events began to unfold, I prayed that this tragedy would not play out the way it did. I pleaded to God, cried out to him to save us all from this horrible, life-changing event. But the answer I wanted did not come and neither did resolution. Days after this tragedy, I stopped praying.
At this point, prayer was still formulaic to me where we thanked God for what he did or does for us, or we ask Him for what we are hoping for. Since I did not want to thank God for the tremendous bomb he dropped in my life and my family's life, I just stopped praying. I didn't have anything to hope for anymore. The formula for praying just did not add up. But something else started to happen. I started talking to God.
Weeks, even months, following this life-changing event I did not pray, but I did talk to God. I found myself starting conversations with God. Not the “Dear Father, thank you for…or Bless this food," but real conversations where I asked Him, why or what’s next for me. I would even tell Him how I felt about my life, about what He had done, and if everything would be okay. My “prayer” was more of a real conversation with a real God that I had a real relationship with. It was not a chore, it was not formulaic, and it was not childish.
It was a real man having a real conversation with God, and it happened at anytime of the day at any moment. I Thessalonians 5:17 says to pray continually, and that’s exactly what I did. We would talk during work, on the drive home, while at a coffee shop, or even before I got out of bed. And I soon realized that when we stop making prayer formulaic, or something half-hearted, and allow it to be a real conversation, we truly open ourselves up to God and it is helpful, therapeutic, and beneficial.
Formulaic prayer may have its place, but what if we all had real conversations with God? What if we went to Him and talked to him as our counselor, father figure, or mentor?
~ Don Ball