Overcoming ‘Prayer Slackerdom’

7 Nov

Girl Reading BibleIn her book, Confessions of a Prayer Slacker, Diane Moody tells the funny story of how, as a young girl of maybe nine or ten, she attended Camp Nunny Cha-Ha in Oklahoma. The theme of the week was learning to have a quiet time, and Diane described the required one-hour quiet times she had… just her and God.  Her description of one of these hour-long sessions made me (Dawn) chuckle.

“Did I mention these quiet times were supposed to last an entire hour?” she said. “I tried. Really I did.”

“Now I lay me down to sleep…” No. Wait. That’s a prayer for babies. I can surely do better than that. Ah! I’ve got it! The Lord’s Prayer! Much more grown-up. So I closed my eyes and recited the familiar words.

“Our Father, Who art in heaven…” Art? I like art. I hope we get to paint this week. Maybe some watercolor…

“Hallowed be Thy name.” I’ve never liked my name. Diane. It’s just so plain. Why couldn’t Mom and Dad have named me Veronica? Or Tabitha? Or Maria ~ like Maria Von Trapp in The Sound of Music. Oh my Gosh, I love that movie!”

“Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done…” Be done, be done, be done … will this Quiet Time ever BE DONE? I’m sooooo bored! B-O-R-E-D. BORED! BORED! BORED”

On earth as it is in Heaven.” I wonder if Julie Andrews and I will be friends in heaven. I loved her in Mary Poppins.  I really liked that bag of hers. All that stuff just kept coming out!

“Give us this day, our daily bread…” I’m so hungry, I could puke. I sure hope they don’t have Sloppy Joes today. Those were gross! maybe we’ll have hot dogs. I’ll take mine with ketchup, no mustard. I hate mustard.

“And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” What the heck is a trespass anyway? And why should I care if someone tresses past me?

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil…” I am so tempted to short-sheet Sally’s bed. That would serve her right for stealing the top bunk.

For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.” This hour feels like forever. FOR-E-VERRRR!

Amen. There. I prayed. Now what? (1)

And Moody then thumbed through her Bible, confessed all the sins she could think of, and tried to deal with the remainder of her “Quiet Time.”

Been there? As I read her words about going through the motions of prayer and Bible study, Confessions of a Prayer Slackerspiritual detours on her prayer journey, and the common excuses people make for not spending time alone with God, I found myself identifying. Though I’m not where I was years ago, I still am not where I want to be and sometimes … yes, sometimes, I’m a “slacker.”

Moody doesn’t leave it there. She doesn’t claim to be an authority on prayer. She’s just is an authority, she says, on “prayer slackerdom.” So she offers motivation and practical help to get started with a prayer life and Quiet Time that makes a difference. She handles “excuses” with humor and insight, exposing how silly we get sometimes when it comes to capturing time with God.

I appreciate Moody’s transparency, and I wonder how many of us would also get honest and say our prayer life and/or Quiet Time need some improvement.

Here’s a quick motivational check up that Diane offers in the book:

“If someone told you to spend the next twenty-four hours in prayer, what’s your first response. Be honest now.

  1. I can’t. My schedule is booked solid from now until forever. No way.
  2. Noooo! Puhleeeeeze don’t make me! I’d lose my mind having to sit still for that long! Besides, I’m hypoglycemic. No can do.
  3. I think I’m having a heart attack. I need to get to the hospital. (Actually, what you’re feeling is nothing more than an intense inner-shuddering; but a heart attack sounds more serious. right?)
  4. Wow! That sounds amazing! I’ve always wanted to do something like that! Let me grab my Bible, and I’m good to go. (2)

Her context is spending 24 hours of quality time with God, our loving Father, our Lord, our Savior. Praying WomanSome people actually spend longer periods of time ~ days ~ in prayer and fasting; but with the pressure of our day, it can get  easy to spend time with God out of obligation, or with a rushed feeling, or distracted by the cares of the day.

Prayer must be a “purposeful matter of the heart,” Moody says. (3) Prayer isn’t so much about all our techniques and methods. It’s not even a matter of our “habit” of prayer. As Oswald Chambers said, “Your god may be your little Christian habit ~ the habit of prayer or Bible reading at certain times of your day.” (4)

But it is intentional. It’s about our daily, focused time considering our relationship with this One who dearly loves us, and what He wants us to do. It’s all about learning to “abide” in Him (John 15:7-11).

God placed a desire for companionship in our hearts (Genesis 2:18), and though we may have many friends and loved ones, no one can complete that need as He can. Our focus may waver from day to day, but we can all move from slack to serious, if we have a heart to pursue God (Deuteronomy 4:29).

(1) Diane Moody, Confessions of a Prayer Slacker (Journey Press, 2010), pp. 10-11

(2) ibid., p. 144

(3) Moody, p. 15

(4) Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (Discovery House Publishers, 1992), May 12

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