Liz shared her story one Sunday morning in church not long ago, and I asked her if I could post it here . . .
My Journey to Know God through Prayer
Priority. That would be a great word to describe my history of praying. But only if you insert the words “lack of” in front of it. Growing up in the church that I did, I was taught about prayer and others led by example on how to pray. Only, my understanding of prayer became something like this: Fold your hands, close your eyes, and begin “Dear Heavenly Father.” And we are supposed to do this mainly at meal times and before going to bed at night. Also, a little tid-bit about my years growing up is that I went to a Lutheran school from Kindergarten through fourth grade. The only prayer we did at that school was the Lord’s Prayer. And not to say that those ways are bad, because I do see significance in it all and have experienced the beauty of the Lord’s Prayer. I recently realized that I did not feel freedom to pray however I wanted to. In fact, I bet there were times that I was praying, such as “Please don’t let me get caught cheating on this test”, or “Please make the yelling stop”. But the problem here, is that I never considered that prayer. I was only “thinking out loud”.
Well, my life continued and I got into high school and heard talks about prayer in youth group. Most times, it consisted of step-by-step instructions to pray. “First, thank God for something goo d in your life. Second, ask God’s forgiveness for the sins you committed. Third, pray for someone you know who needs prayer. And finally, close your prayer by thanking God for his love. Amen.” Again, not that this is bad, but I felt as if I needed to pray in this way, or I wasn’t praying at all. Well, I wasn’t consistent with this way of praying. So, I tried journaling my prayers. But after several days, weeks, and a couple of years of not writing, I realized that journaling maybe wasn’t a priority in my life, and making the time to do that was too hard because I want to go have fun.
It wasn’t until I showed up here (Open Door Fellowship) that I started to hear how other people pray, and hear people talk about prayer, that I realized I have freedom to pray however I want, whenever I want, and as short or as long as I want. I realized that my thoughts can even be prayers. You mean, I don’t always have to say my prayers out loud and in a certain order? What a concept! So through this, I began noticing little moments throughout the day where God has been with me and helped me through a hard conversation, or was laughing with me. And in those moments I acknowledge God’s presence in my life and thank Him for it. I have began to feel a sense of comfort knowing that God is always with me and He does not have any expectations for me when it comes to prayer. He just wants me to know He is there. And He gets excited when I feel free to pray in group settings, as well as privately between He and I.
A major hard part of this journey that I recently realized, is that I have difficulty trusting God. I have been hurt by men in my life that are “supposed” to be trustworthy, have my best interests at heart and be highly influential in my life, to help me develop my own identity. And then I was hurt by others throughout my life journey and lost trust in people. And here is this God, whom we refer to as “Father” in a relational way, but I didn’t know how to trust someone with the deepest intimacies of my heart. So, I have also been on a challenging journey of learning to trust God with who He says He is and that He cares about me and loves me as if I am the only one in the universe. I am continually learning to trust my Abba like I’ve never known, and feeling safe because He adores me wherever I am at in my journey. So now, when I think of a word to describe my prayer journey, I choose Freedom.