Do you have a hard time being comfortable in your own skin? Being human’s like that. You don’t get a lot of social status points for not knowing the answers to a test or admitting you’re not the best at something. These days, so many people are lonely, and a huge reason is because we never allow ourselves to be real. Most of the time, we can’t face our shortcomings when we’re by ourselves, so there’s definitely no way we feel like we can do it with others. And this is precisely where Jesus steps in.
For years, praying felt the same way. It was an obligatory act you know you should do if you’re a Christian. If you’re really devout you write a little list of things in the world to pray for: “Dear Jesus, be with people in Africa; be with my neighbor Sally; help my school with their fundraiser, etc.” There’s something good about these kinds of prayers, but at some point they just begin feeling like dead ritual. And—if you’re like me—when they feel like dead ritual they seem absolutely pointless.
It wasn’t until college that I had a bit of a breakdown, and a friend took me to the beach, gave me some paper, and said, “Sit here and talk to God about whatever the f*** you need to talk about.” The cussing really added to the drama of the moment. Anyway, that’s where simple prayer started out for me, and it’s still the primary way I pray to this day.
By simple prayer, I mean talking to God about whatever fears, desires, and general feelings you have going on in you at that moment. I have a journal I write my prayers in because I find I think better while writing, but you don’t have to. The important thing is just to be real, to be fully and openly honest with God, and then to listen.
I don’t think you ever get past the need for simple prayer. It’s the foundation of every other form. Praying is all about opening up a space for communication between you and God. Whether you’re meditating, interceding, or worshipping God through music, you are essentially communicating with God and building your relationship with Him. The potential problem with these other forms of prayer, though, is that, just like our other relationships, we can put on a face with God. If you interact with God the same way you do a potential employer in a job interview, then the relationship you have is probably shallow or maybe even false. Simple prayer is the remedy for that.
For years, I prayed for the poor but didn’t really care about the poor. Now that God and I have a relationship where I’m always being honest with my hopes and desires and fears, when I get reminded to pray for the poor I begin to actually care. Now when the concerns of my prayer-life extend beyond the borders of myself, there’s a strange reversal where talking with God seems to actually affect and transform the desires of my heart.
In the seven or so years since that day on the beach, I’ve felt myself in various positions with regards to Christianity. At times, the whole religion seemed bogus; at times, I didn’t even know if I believed in a God. Looking back, I’m thankful that in those times I had already built up enough safety and honesty to begin a prayer with: “God, I don’t know if you’re real or just a made-up voice in my own head…”
Trevor grew up in a small desert town in Southern California and graduated from Vanguard University in 2013. He moved to Portland, Oregon in 2014 where he currently lives with his beautiful wife, Ashlee, and enjoys of reading, writing, city-life, hiking, and investing in close friendships. Trevor is passionate about bringing the Church to the world and crossing the great divide between Christians and non-Christians that usually leaves both sides scratching their heads. He currently works at a small, Portland-based Christian university named Multnomah University as a Social Media and PR Specialist. He has spent some time in a couple different seminaries but is now getting his master's of English at Portland State University.