It is sobering to realize that after twenty-three years in the church, I do not know how to pray. I do not know how to talk to God. I only know how to talk about God. This is normally fine, because my life is normally fine. I have a wonderful husband, a cute apartment, and enough money to not worry much.
I am safe.
I am fed.
I am warm.
I am happy.
These are all good things. But there are other things…things that gurgle about below. The good things have made me bad. Or, I was bad already, and I didn’t notice until I had good to compare it to.
I am materialistic.
I am shallow.
I do not like getting out of my middle class comfort zone.
I am lazy.
I am unforgiving.
I am entitled and elitist.
I think that all I have is mine and that I am the ruler of my kingdom. Who has time for God in all this self-obsession? Who has time for neighbor?
Love God, Love People. I am not very committed to doing either. Because I love myself, all dialogue is with myself. This is a confession: I do not know how to pray. Because I do not communicate with Love (God, who is all love) I have no love to give others. Because I do not communicate with God I cannot love him. How can I love that which I don’t know? I pretend. We pretend. It is easy to speak of God, difficult to speak to God. For what can we say, except “I repent?” I would have to start every conversation by admitting that I am wrong, broken, hateful, selfish.
It’s easier not to speak.
It’s easier not to love.
It’s easier to be mute.
The Bible is full of stories, of prophets, of sinners, of great people. None were silent. The sinners proclaimed their sinfulness; they boasted in their success as if they had created it. The faithful sang of their faithfulness; the doubtful whispered their doubts. Silence is the enemy of relationship. Relationships are messy. They’re hard work. People in relationship have to stop being selfish, stop trying to “win,” and stop ignoring issues. People in relationships have to open their mouths.
Do you know how to pray? Do you only speak with yourself? Talk to God. To God. Start with “I’m sorry.” Start with “I don’t know how.” Start with “I don’t like this,” and “This is hard.” You’ll get distracted; you’ll get discouraged. But suddenly one day you’ll realize that you were talking to God without thinking about it. Then listen. For a minute, for an hour before you start speaking. And then one day you’ll realize that God is talking back.
The deaf will hear. The mute will speak (1). We will love God, and it will be easy to love neighbor.
1: Matthew 7:31-37