I don’t like prayer. I don’t think I ever have. As you can imagine, this caused some internal conflict growing up in my conservative Christian home. Praying was like eating broccoli. I didn’t have to like it, I just had to do it, because it would make me a better person. Or it would make Jesus a better person. Or something.
Prayer was done in one of two ways: ritualistically (e.g. before supper and bedtime) and spontaneously (e.g. Dear God please don’t make me eat this broccoli amen). They could either be spoken out loud, or quietly in one’s head. Given that my prayers generally end up sounding like “Heavenly Father, I just… I pray that things… I pray that things go well Lord, and that those things…. Those things would be good because…. Because we want them to be good. Amen”, I usually opted for the latter of the two options.
I think my problem is that I approach prayer from the wrong angle. Not necessarily the “God doesn’t expect your prayers to be perfect!” spiel that was preached to every kid who ever played a poorly organized game of kickball at an awkward YWAM function. I understand that, and I’m very, very grateful. My issue was that I was approaching prayer from the standpoint that God needed to hear it.
Which is really silly if you think about it.
The view that God needs to hear prayer has a couple different implications. One, that She’s not omniscient: “You want healing for your broken leg? Well I had no idea, thanks for letting me know! I’ll get my best people on it”. Two, that She’s passive-aggressive. “I was going to get you into this college BUUUUTTTTTT you didn’t pray for it. Sorry, those are the rules”, or “Well you didn’t thank me for your last paycheck. Why would I give you another one?”
Prayer is not for God, but for us. Every week before Lighthouse, a bunch of us get together to pray for each other’s needs. This is not a beacon to God, but a concrete expression of her love in the community. When you hear your friend call to God earnestly for your well-being, that comfort can be very real. This comfort stems from the love of the people who care about you, which stems from She who first loved us.
God doesn’t need prayer, but I sure as hell do.