One question I am sometime asked is how is how do I have so much to pray about. As in, what do you do with the prayer times because often God seems silent and I don’t know what to say.
Well, friend, let me let you in on a secret. Not only are there never-ending prayer requests when we are in community with others (people are always getting sick and having various sorts of relationship breakdowns worthy of prayer and also joys and circumstances to be grateful for) but there is a never ending well that involves just the Lord and I.
I am talking about prayers of confession.
My household includes two cats. They are very cute, I am glad they are part of my life. Still, like every creature they have bodily functions and so part of sharing a space with them is the job of cleaning the cat litter, a job that mostly falls to yours truly. If I do not do it everyday it waits and festers. It doesn’t magically disappear just because I avoid looking in that direction, the longer I wait the tougher and longer the clean-up job will be. Eventually there will be no choice but to face the music—so to speak.
Confessional prayers are similar. We can look the other way at where we are to blame for the challenges we face. We can blame others for relational breakdowns, we can blame luck for our health (sometimes this is true), we can decry circumstances without acknowledging how our reactions to a situation may not have been, to put it mildly, the most productive. This is how many of us function much of the time. The result? A growing pile of stink deep in our souls. Our lives get smaller as they involve less and less people (“because they are always wrong, too much work, don’t understand us” etc.). Our opportunities shrink as we learn to predict everything that could (will???) go wrong if we bother trying (“tried that once years ago and it didn’t work and of course we couldn’t do it differently this time nor could the circumstances have changed”), taking one step towards improving our health gets harder and harder as we out taking the step off into the future, I bet you get my drift.
My suggestion is simple. If you aren’t sure what to pray about or for try offering a prayer of confession. This doesn’t have to be the sort of calvinist total depravity (a much misunderstood concept that maybe I will write about another place) prayer. If you are not comfortable admitting you have failed God perhaps start smaller, how have you failed your own expectations? Yelled at someone or said a harsh word when they needed love? Wasted money on something frivolous and now you don’t have enough for essentials? Mad at someone else’s lack of environmental awareness as you drive from place to place? Stubbornly responding to someone or something when such a response only hurts you more? Again, you get the drift.
I heard it said that the common feature of every experience and situation you didn’t like is that you were present. You were part of every bad decision you have ever made:)
So, next time, maybe today, maybe right now, that you think you might want to pray but don’t know what to pray about, try emptying the cat litter. If it has been a while I suggest you block out some time because once you start this type of prayer often really flows. Weirdly it often feels good because admitting where I am wrong is also an admission of love, love for self and others whom we have wronged. It also leads, in me at least, to a growing sensitivity towards others and their needs.
And the result?
Not shame or self-hatred or anything like that.
No, the result is the washing of Christ, the sense of being loved and capable of loving, the sense of being forgiven and the freedom to face a new day, to try again, and to fail again, and to offer forgiveness to others.
The result? A greater appreciation for the cross and for the crosses others bear, the weight everyone is carrying.
Once you start you might find yourself kinder to yourself and others, and if you continue the practice regularly, staying on top of it like I must stay on top of the cat litter, you will experience important transformations. All thanks to a little prayer.