Prayer is a subject that has been on the front burner of my consciousness lately. I have been more aware than usual of the need to pray every day and throughout the day. I have become motivated to pray for others with a sense of urgency.
I must admit at the outset that I have not responded to this heightened awareness with proper diligence. I have trouble with prayer. I am, by nature, an impatient person, full of impetuous energy. I have often used furious activity as a refuge from my troubles. When you’re going a hundred miles per hour, not much can stick to you. Besides, intense productivity is a great all-around balm for what ails. It improves one’s circumstances. It pushes back feelings of inadequacy. It generates its own energy and enthusiasm. The demons of loneliness and unfulfilled longing stay away. For a while. Then the time comes when there is wakefulness without anything legitimate to occupy the motion. Sometimes, aimless motion is worse than stillness.
But why is stillness so onerous for me? Am I afraid my past will catch up with me? Do I believe if it does I will be engulfed once again in its senseless gyrations of self-destruction? Not entirely. But there is something in the past that is yet unresolved. Moreover, in the stillness, especially in prayer, there is the likelihood that God will speak. Exactly why I’m not eager for this to happen, I can’t explain.
A friend of mine, Seth, once told me, “You’re afraid to become quiet and listen to the voice of God because you think you’re not going to like what you hear. But you’re going to like it a lot.”
I think he’s right. I don’t think I’m going to like what God has to say to me. For one thing, I’m afraid He’s going to impose further restrictions on my activities. He’s going to tell me to stop spending my time writing books, that I’m chasing money and vainglory. Or He’s going to tell me He’s calling me to the single life. He’s going to tell me my time and money and possessions aren’t my own, to give it all away and pour out my life for Him. I’ll end up sitting in a dusty room for 20 hours a day doing some miserable ministry, eating stale food-bank fare. Or maybe God will simply tell me I’ve forsaken the faith in the pursuit of selfish ambition, rest and leisure while neglecting service and prayer. And to some extent, that’s true. I wish I knew whether the devoted life is something that flows naturally out of relationship with God or if it’s something a person has to force himself to do out of sheer obedience. I know it’s likely to be some combination of inspiration and discipline, but how much of each is it? And how do I get those things flowing in my life more? The funny thing is, when I asked the last question in writing just now, a little voice inside me said, “Prayer.”