Hoping vs. Praying

I want to become a better prayer.

All too often my prayers fall into two categories that I’m going to use a football analogy to help define: The Draw Play and the Hail Mary Pass.

The draw play prayers.  A draw play is a hand-off run up the middle of the field.  It is one of the first plays any kid playing football learns and it is the old stand by.  It seldom breaks free for much of a gain, maybe a couple of yards, but it also doesn’t often result in a loss.  It becomes mechanical.  Like saying the Lord’s prayer at night or grace before a meal.  I’m praying, but not taking much of a risk and not putting too much of myself into it.  I’m not saying memorized prayer is bad per se, but it seldom breaks into the big yardage gains.

The Hail Mary pass is when a team is down by less than a touchdown.  They send everyone into the endzone and throw the ball as hard and as far as they can just hoping someone catches it.  It is a last ditch effort to salvage a win from a losing situation.  Much like the way I call on God to save me when I find myself so far in a mess that I can’t get out myself. 

So here is what got me thinking about this and recognizing my need to do better.  I was talking on the phone with a brother in Christ on Thursday and we were trying to get together.  I mentioned that I couldn’t on Friday because I had an MRI scheduled.  He immediately asked these simple words, “how can I pray for you?”  What I recognized is that I don’t say that to people.  I say, I hope everything turns out well or I wish you the best or even let’s pray everything goes well, but that is all far different than “how can I pray for you?”  especially with the intent and commitment of actually doing it.

It reminded me of a time that I was doing some work at our pastor’s home.  I was doing my work and could overhear him on the telephone talking with a couple that had just been blessed with a new child.  I wasn’t listening in, but it also wasn’t anything that required confidentiality – he was simply on the phone and I was in the same room.  I overheard him ask the couple on the phone if he could pray for them.  No big deal, I do ask people that sometimes (far more than I probably remembered to actually do pray for them truth be told).  But then he shocked me.  Evidently the couple said, “sure,” to which he responded, “OK, then let’s pray together” and he immediately began praying on the phone.  This may not be shocking to others, but the idea that when you talked with someone about praying for them that you actually stopped right then and did it – that set me back on my heels.

So, here are my two new things I’m trying – and I would love others feedback on this:

1. I am going to try to eliminate the catch-phrase “I hope” from my vocabulary.  I realize it is the thing I say when I should be talking about praying.

2. When I say I am going to pray about something I’m going to do it ASAP, and as often as possible, right then.  I’ll also do it later as well, adding it to the wrote prayers from the bible to keep my mind focused and my conversation active with God.

By shifting my focus from hoping for stuff to praying for stuff I am going to have less that I have to worry about, and more I commit to pray about, thus more time that I will spend praying.  I have a feeling that more time spent talking with God, especially about others in my life and not just myself, is going to be a good thing.

Living in a fog

I recently finished reading a book by Robert Bly called “Make Every Second Count.”  Bly is a business writer and this short book was a very quick compendium of useful time management tools and techniques.

One of the items that he discusses is stress.  We all feel stress from time to time, some more than others and some times more than other times.  But I loved the analogy that Bly used.

Imagine you are in a city in incredibly thick fog.  So thick you can’t see through it at all, even to the end of your outstreched hand.  Now picture that fog from ground level up 10 stories high and picture it in an area 7 blocks by 7 blocks.  That is a lot of fog!

If you took all of that fog, or more appropriately, all of the moisture in the air that is creating the fog, and condensed it into one place… it would only fill up one drinking glass.

That is how stress, sin and so many of the harmful worries and obstacles are in our lives.  We spread them out over space and time and they are a huge deal, even paralyzing.  But when we earnestly pray to turn it all over to God, in His power he compresses it down to what it really is – just a single cup.

The next time you read the scriptures about Christ being willing to drink the cup – keep this in the back of your mind.