For those that don't know, I've begun reading A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller (thanks to my dear friend, Jess, for posting her thoughts on it and encouraging me to read it). There are an abundance of lessons I am learning through this simple-yet provocative-book.
This book is helping me understand what it means to truly approach God in prayer:
"The criteria for coming to Jesus is weariness. Come overwhelmed with life. Come with your wandering mind. Come messy."
For much of my life, I have been so eager to understand prayer to the point where I "get" it--where I can "do" prayer "correctly."
I never learned how to do that.
Instead, I've learned to become quickly discouraged as my mind floated away from the topic at hand... as I reminded myself I was not praising God "enough" in my prayers... that I asked for too much and acknowledged him too little... that I didn't have the proper "prayer formula" down... that, perhaps, I would never be able to pray. Maybe I just couldn't do it.
"Come messy." The Christian Artist Retreat that Elliott and I co-planned (with about six other amazingly creative people) had the subtitle: "Meeting God in the Mess of Art." We wanted to remind ourselves and others that we are messy. We make a mess out of things, and sometimes that comes out in our art. Sometimes it comes out in our lives. It's okay. We can encounter the Creator in our mess. We are absolutely dependent on him if we ever want to find our way out from it. Sometimes the messiness is the most beautiful place to be because it means we're being totally honest about who and where we are. I understood this "messy theory" from an artist's perspective, but never from a praying perspective.
Artist Philip Barry
As Paul E. Miller points out, somewhere along the lines, we as Christians started to separate prayer from the rest of our beings. We stopped being honest and started trying to be Holy--instead of letting Jesus do the work for us. "Jesus wants us to be without pretense when we come to him in prayer [...] God ... cheers when we come to him with our wobbly, unsteady prayers" (30-31).
I feel as though I'm being released from the pretense I imagined prayer to be-- and now I am free to offer wobbly prayers to God, to come messy to his presence, to be myself. Now I can put aside my intimidation of not being "Holy enough" to pray, and just be...and let him work on me.