It’s not uncommon for me to hear of requests for prayer, either through the churches I attend, on my Facebook Feed, or through my school’s email list, and I can read anywhere from one to three requests for prayer (or more) per day.  These don’t include the occasional texts I receive from friends or family, and the even rarer in-person requests for me to pray for something or someone.  And I always respond with a fervent ‘Yes! I’d be glad to pray!”  If I’m responding online or in a text, my responses usually include an exclamation point at the end to signify my excitement and urgency in this, my call to action:

Praying for you in this time!
Lifting you up in prayers now!
Going to God with this immediately!
You’re in my prayers today and always!
#praying #interceding #headbowedhandsfolded

But the truth is, my actions usually never go beyond these responses.  While I’m eager to pray and willing to do so, the requests come to my prayer inbox but don’t go straight to my prayer outbox…they just kind of sit there, marked as read and perpetually in limbo for eternity.  I’m terrible at following through in my responses to prayer requests.  Being on the opposite side of the table – the one requesting prayer – I recognize how important it is to know others are lifting me or my issues up to God, and I count on those who respond that they will pray to do as they say.  So why can’t I do it?

I’m not not-praying in some malicious way.  I’m not intentionally telling people I’ll pray and give them hope, only to not pray for them.  I don’t sit at my computer or with my phone in hand replying and thinking (with a Snidely Whiplash tone in my voice), “Ha Ha!  I’ll say that I’m praying, but in reality I won’t think about their injured puppy ever again! Muahahahaha!”

And I’m not not-praying because I don’t believe in the power of prayer, either.  I value prayer and the idea that we can approach God with confidence and humility and present our requests, thoughts, frustrations, ideas, hopes, dreams, fears, and questions.  There’s something deeply reassuring to know that the Creator has time to sit and listen to me and my voice amid the myriad of other voices crying out.

I think my reason for not praying is that these requests tend to show up at ‘inconvenient’ times for me, and my selfishness gets in the way.  I respond with fervor and willingness, but I always back it up with me making a half-hearted mental note, “Hey, don’t forget to pray for Annie’s nephew later…and don’t forget to buy deodorant.”  And I never do it.  My mind moves on to the next thing, the next problem in front of me, the next issue going on in my world and I never return to pray for Annie’s nephew, or my parents’ health, or my friend’s marriage, or teenagers I know who are struggling, or for my country, or for my church home, or for that family who lost their father, or…or…or…

It’s not like I don’t have anything to pray about – I just tend to lose it in the shuffle of my life.  I put it aside for later and never return to it.  And part of why I don’t just pray for it then and there is because I think there are more pressing matters at hand which…which is stupid, because very little of what I ever do is more important than praying.  When I think about it, the things that come into view that keep me from praying are just ridiculous compared to talking to God about Annie’s nephew or that teenager or my friend’s marriage.  Rich Mullins wrote, “…the stuff of Earth competes for the allegiance I owe only to the Giver of all good things…”  And the ‘stuff of earth’ usually wins: Facebook…the news cycle…phone notifications…some TV show…games…a shiny light…there’s so much going on around us to draw me away from getting down and praying in the moment I say I’m going to pray.

Honestly, I’m ashamed of myself for doing this for so long,  I’m ashamed because I have said I’m going to do something and then don’t do it.  I’m ashamed for not putting others before my silly-life-things.  I’m ashamed for not immediately going to God with these requests.  God have mercy on me in the midst of my failures, and may I have the ability to change.  And may the stuff of Earth never take priority over talking with my Creator.

much love. sheth.

4 thoughts on “Truth: Not Praying

  1. When I get an email from church, I occasionally wonder if people actually pray right then and there, or is the information just that. Information, vaguely disguised as a “prayer request.” Of course, I’m cynical like that …

  2. I struggle with this myself, *all* the time.

    Prayer is so strange. I mean, really…what equates prayer? How long should it take? What should we say? The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing and gives us the Lord’s Prayer, but who does that? Who could? Certainly not me. What constitutes a “good” prayer?

    I got to write a one-week devotional for my home church earlier this summer, and for one of the days I chose Romans 8:26-27: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

    I love that imagery: with sighs too deep for words…prayer that groans from the depths of our souls, beyond word and thought, drawn out by Spirit and held by God. We don’t really know how to pray, but somehow still we pray. Without even knowing it at times, still we pray. I think the cards you wrote to so many people this past year were prayers. I think you being at seminary is prayer. And I think this post (as well as all the others), this post full of your failures, your honesty, your vulnerability…this post that you took the time to think about and put into words – that’s prayer.

    Maybe it’s a cop out. Maybe it’s bad theology. Maybe I’m a shitty Christian. But I choose to believe that Spirit intercedes for us, even when the stuff gets in the way. I choose to believe that God searches and knows our hearts, even when we lock them away. And I choose to believe that our failures and weaknesses and utter inadequacy is still enough.

    Thank you for this, Sheth.

    1. Thank you, Andrew! More often than not, I’m not praying. Just last night I was thinking, “I should be praying” but I got distracted by some stupid video on youtube. And I haven’t figured out how to multi-task and ‘pray without ceasing’ but still go grocery shopping, have a conversation, or read a book. Maybe God gives us so many examples of prayer in the Bible so we can witness that there are many ways to do it. I appreciate your willingness to admit you’re not perfect, and I’m thankful of your reminder that the Spirit is there groaning and speaking when we can’t (or don’t). We’ll get this whole Christian thing down someday…maybe…

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