This week I found myself in a discussion about prayer that I found quite refreshing. Prayer has always been a big part of my life and I have often found many answers that I've been seeking as I kneel before God and pour out my soul. By definition prayer is a two way communication with God. When I want to talk to Him for whatever reason all I have to do is start talking to Him, either out loud or in my mind, and He hears and answers me. That's easier and more convenient than calling up my mom or Facebooking my best friend to ask questions or tell them about my day. Prayer truly is amazing!
So being in this conversation about prayer, I noticed a disturbing trend. Everyone talked about "saying your prayers". It's a common phrase that we use without thinking about it, but I think it sends the wrong message about prayer. When I call my husband on the phone, I TALK to him, I don't SAY to him. Saying something implies only one person is involved. I don't need someone to talk to in order to say something. So if we think of it as "saying" our prayers, I wonder if we think of it as heartfelt communication with God, or if we just think of it as rambling off a list of "please" and "thank you's" at the end of the day (or beginning, or at mealtimes, or whenever you might "say" your prayers).
How would you feel if your Dad called you every day and just talked without listening, and everything he said was completely generalized, like "I'm grateful for today" and "I hope my family is safe and happy". Would you feel like you ever really knew what was going on in his life? Would you feel like he actually wanted to talk to you or would you feel like he was just doing something out of habit? Would you feel like he wanted to understand you?
Obviously our prayers aren't always like that, but I worry that if we always refer to it as "saying" our prayers, then we aren't taking advantage of what prayer can really mean for us. Would you think differently before you prayed if someone asked "Have you expressed your feelings to God today?" instead of "Have you said your prayers today?". Or what about "Would you thank Heavenly Father for this meal for us?" instead of "Would you say the blessing on the food?" I'm sure you would put a lot more thought and meaning into prayer if you were to say to your spouse "I'll be there in a minute, I need to ask God a few questions first." Instead of "I'll be right down, I gotta say my prayers real quick."
I really believe that if we refer to prayer differently that we'll pray differently. It's not something easy, but it is something simple. Prayer requires work, and it should. Don't expect that by saying a variation of the same thing over and over that you're actually going to get to know God. Treat talking to Him the same you would talking to any other person, except with even more respect. I'm willing to bet that if you change the way you refer to prayer, you'll find that you pray with more meaning and that you will feel you have really communicated with God. You'll get out of it what you put into it, and I promise that God will answer you. He always answers, even if we don't recognize it. But then again, it's hard to recognize His part of the conversation if all you're doing is "saying" at Him.