Tuesday, March 07, 2017

When Praying Doesn't Count

Green Lake Christian Conference Center, Wisconsin

Several years ago one of my seminary students called me with a problem. My assignment was for them to pray, one hour a day, for thirty days. And, I wanted them to pray in a "lonely" place, away from their home, office, and normal work environment.

The student's problem was this: "When I pray, I am not hearing from God."

"Where," I asked, "are you praying?"

They responded, "It takes me an hour to get to work in the morning. I am praying as I drive to work."

"That," I replied, "doesn't count."

I told the student they had to start the praying assignments all over again, which meant getting an extension for the class.

No one in Scripture, nor in church history, who had a significant praying life, multitasked it. This is because multitasking is the enemy of real relationship, and praying is being in relationship with God.

In the same way, Linda and I are not on a date together if I am on my cell phone all the time.

Can you pray when you drive, or wash dishes, or mow the lawn, or play "Gears of War?" Yes, I think so. But people with deep praying lives find lonely places, like Jesus did, to meet with God, and God alone. During these times the only thing that is accomplished is speaking with and listening to God. These are "pure in heart" times, with no distractions.

That's how love is. Praying is the result of a heart that loves God, ontologically. People who do this don't accomplish other tasks at the same time.

I told my student, "Don't expect to hear much from God if you are tasking other things at the same time."

My book on prayer is Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.