Conversing with God
“I mean, it’s just a conversation with God, it’s not that hard!” That was the phrase that was told to me when I was in high school seeking answers on the practical aspects of personal prayer. I had already bought into the whole idea of being in a relationship with Jesus. I had been to the conferences and retreats and camps and knew that this was what I was created for… the only problem? I had no idea how to do it.
I remember playing “Bible bingo” before school in the morning: I would randomly flip open my Bible, point my finger, and read my “daily verse,” and that was about it. If you’ve ever read some of the earlier Old Testament books, you know it could get a little weird… but I was never taught how to have the consistent, daily prayer life that everyone was telling me I had to have!
Enter that person who told me that prayer is simply conversation with God. I hung onto that phrase for a long time and would become so frustrated when God was silent or seemingly not talking back to me. Was I praying wrong? Did I not say the right words? Was there another formula I was supposed to be using, a different novena? “Why aren’t you talking back in this supposed ‘conversation,” God!?” Frustrations all around.
I’ve since grown and matured in my prayer life with God, but it honestly wasn’t until 2020 when I was reading the book, The Way of the Heart, by Henri Nouwen, that I learned something important. Nouwen eloquently says that prayer is not simply a conversation because “conversation” presupposes a response, a two-way street. So when we don’t “hear” the voice of God, we can grow frustrated, disappointed, or abandon prayer altogether because it just “doesn’t work for me.” Or it seems like too much work without much of a return.
Nouwen suggests that prayer isn’t just an intellectual pursuit in which we jam spiritual books, journaling, reading, etc., into our time and leave no room for silence to allow the whisper of God to enter our hearts. Nouwen states that prayer should lead us to greater rest and suggests repeating truths and phrases over and over until they move from our head to our heart, the place where all life springs from.
Prayer is not simply a conversation with God. What I’ve learned from having a daily prayer life is that I’m entering into an awareness of God being all around me. I’m acknowledging the fact that God has never left me and I’m simply turning my body, mind, and soul back to Him. It’s so much easier than we think it is.
As human beings, we tend to fill our time with good, productive things, but we can become entrapped by the busyness life demands. We can become so consumed with the needs of every moment that we forget to hear the Lord calling our hearts into His rest and His peace that goes beyond our human understanding.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or generally behind in everything, I want to encourage you to set an alarm for ten minutes and just repeat the phrase, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want” over and over. Allow that truth to sink into your heart and allow the tenderness and gentleness of Jesus to override any feelings of inadequacy, perfectionism, or doubt and stress in your life. Even doing this for ten minutes can radically change your life from one of busyness and always on the go, to being firmly rooted and grounded in the fact that you are ultimately loved by the King of the Universe.