How can I start praying again?

Dear Jon:

Something just hit me and I hope I don’t get struck down for saying this: I used to pray, something I used to do quietly on my own since I was a kid. But a year ago or so, I began questioning the purpose: If God has a plan for me and knows what I need, why barrage Him with all of these pesky DMs? But, if the purpose of prayer is more to lay our woes at His feet so they aren’t constantly zinging around our heads, then that makes more sense.

Dear friend:

I understand your thinking. I’m wrestling through some of the things that we tell people about prayer myself. What I’m pretty clear about though is that praying is more like this conversation we are having than it is like DM’d spam.

Think about our relationship, you and me. We’ve met face to face just a couple times. But we touch base through twitter pretty often. And we email several times a year. And we are both involved in a group of people who are interacting with each other at least quarterly.

Though we are able to do things for each other, particularly help each other think, the best part of our relationship is that we have a relationship. We are friends in ways that surpass the distance, that surpass the specific actions we can do for each other.

The content of the communication is often less important than the fact that we are interacting. Every touch, every exchange, deepens and enriches our understanding of each other.

I think that’s what God’s desiring as we pray. Doing stuff is part of it. Sometimes it’s handing off woes. But the bigger thing is developing a relationship between persons. With one of those persons being God.

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14 thoughts on “How can I start praying again?

  1. cjhinx

    I struggle over prayer often myself. Recently God has been showing me that when I pray, giving my fears and worries to him, I can see how he is masterfully working in my life. Had I not prayed about these things I would probably still be focused on my fears and worries and not see God at work in them. He is so caring and loving that he brings us the most wonderful surprises at the most needed times.


    1. Jon Swanson

      This is a good illustration of the relational part of the conversation we call prayer. There is perspective that comes/that we are given by stepping back and consciously engaging in conversation with God. Just like It happens to me when I talk with other people and get their counsel, when I talk with God, I get counsel.


  2. Frank Reed


    Was just talking this morning about this with my wife. I don’t believe that my prayers change God’s direction but they simply keep me in tune with His will in whatever the situation being prayed about is.

    I agree. It’s about relationship. It’s like when my daughter tries to figure out what I intend for her without us having talked. She is usually unclear and unsettled about the outcome. Now, if we had talked about whatever the circumstance or even just about how I make decisions regarding her, she gets the outcome much more clearly. She rarely changes my mind with pleading (of course God doesn’t waver but my sin makes me break from time to time) but when she is aligned with my will for her it works better.

    Anyway, thanks for tackling this difficult concept. There is so much more to discuss and I look forward to hearing from you.


  3. Andrew Bernhardt

    Another way of looking at it…

    Dear Jon:

    Something just hit me and I hope I don’t get struck down for saying this: I used to talk to my wife a lot… you know tell her I love her, that sort of thing. But a year ago or so, I began questioning the purpose: If my wife already knows I love her, why keep running on about it like a broken record? She’ll just get tired of hearing the same old thing. But, if the purpose of talking to my wife is to unload all the difficulties of my day, or to tell her what she’s doing wrong, then that makes more sense.


    1. Jon Swanson

      I’m with you for the first half. I like the shift of context as a way of illustrating. But then I want to expand a bit.

      The unloading of difficulties isn’t the (only) purpose of talking with Nancy, but it is something that happens in the context of our relationship. It is a safe place for her to vent (and for me to vent) at the end of a day of work and life frustration. And that’s why I left that part of the my friend’s question alone. We are invited to conversation with God that way. And David’s (and other writers of the prayers we know as Psalms) spend time on the woes. And even on telling God what he should do.

      What’s interesting to me is that even if our starting place in talking with God is pointing out what’s not working, that’s acknowledging (or can be) a relationship. It’s designed to go far beyond that. We’re invited to stop talking and start listening, to be still. But I’m regularly assuring people that yelling at God isn’t usually a capital offense. In fact, often, the yelling dissolves into an understanding of a love that can withstand our fundamental humanness.

      Thanks Andrew.


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