"Please tell me why you pray."This wasn't asked by someone who isn't familiar with Christianity, but by someone I know who asks thought-provoking questions to make sure we aren't becoming robotic in our expressions of worship. Perhaps that's why the question made me chuckle, not because it isn't a good one but because I likely would have answered it different ways over the years. When I was younger I may have said "Because we're supposed to," and as I entered into a season of agnosticism in my early teens I probably would have arrogantly spewed, "Because it's a goofy tradition." As I grew in my faith, I might have replied, "It helps me connect with God better." Perhaps I may have even stated 5 to 10 years ago, "Jesus commanded it - right there in the Sermon on the Mount."
I'm not sure how I'll answer that question in the future, but here was my confident reply this week:
"My only answer to the question 'Why pray?' is simply 'Why breathe?'"Although that made perfect sense to me, I received a reply via Twitter:
"Tony, with all due respect, that statement makes no sense."First off, I appreciate the "all due respect" part. Sometimes we fail to honor responses and replies that don't fit within our scheme of how we see the world, or are trying to make a point at the world. To return the favor, I'm writing this blog post since Twitter only allows 140 characters of thought or pushback. If I had more space to communicate my thought, I would add the following:
"Sure it does, but maybe not with your initial glance. Consider what each has in common with the other.
Breathing is the unconscious pathway to life that can be at times a conscious decision, such as taking a deep breath or holding your breath. Even with such actions, you eventually will lapse into it being an unconscious activity because sleep takes over or you become weary of being so intentional; however, there are times where holding your breath makes sense to avoid injecting harmful fluids or gas, and other times where a deep breath brings nourishment and relaxation to your body.I hope that helps clarify, and blesses others on the journey of being neither conventional nor unconventional... but simply open to and interactive with the Lord.
Prayer is the activity of 'breathing' for the Christ-follower: it is something a spiritually restored person does to unconsciously stay alive with God (Matthew 6), and this is assisted by the Holy Spirit through even our groans (Romans 8:26). We can also take the action of 'holding our prayers' when we begin to babble unnecessarily and cross a line Jesus warned against; similarly, we can also 'Selah' and pause to find our rest and renewal by intentionally and slowly exhaling our burdens and inhaling the realities of God... something we're encouraged to do continually, or without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
So I apologize for writing something in the form of a question that is full of such detail... but prayer is as unconscious as breathing, and in this way everything we do can be a form of it. Likewise, we don't need to fear it taking on a conventional form at times because we don't want to look like simpleton Christians, but it is more than those conventional forms people turn it into. For all we may want to criticize them, sometimes our drive to appear unconventional keeps us from missing the Trinity in the ceiling fan, if you know what I mean."