By Petra Barrientos, MBC Tysons Multiply Table Leader
God has taught me a lesson. In a good way. He has once and for all put to rest my forever-reoccurring issues with prayer. Even to type the words “issues with prayer” makes me cringe. In the days leading up to my recent baptism I was wrestling with questions like “Why pray if God has a perfect plan and I really don’t have a clue? And what if He hears my messed up prayers and decides to deviate from His plan just because I have not begged Him often enough?” All too familiar territory and I cannot believe that somehow or other I ended up back there—again.
(I need to deviate for a minute for this story to make sense. I am in the process of applying for U.S. citizenship. Over the past months I have repeatedly been summoned downtown to the office of immigration services. So when the letter came inviting me to the citizenship test and interview, I took note of the day and time and assumed the place to be the same).
One day, after a couple of days with prayer issues, I went to Bible study. When it was my turn to jot down prayer requests, I said to myself—and this is a direct quote: “It can’t possibly be this hard to pray! Just put down what is on your heart!” And so I asked for prayers for my upcoming baptism and citizenship interview.
The lady next to me was very interested in my citizenship application and asked countless questions. When? Where? Who? How? I finally asked her, jokingly: “What? Are you with Homeland Security?” With a grin she handed me her card: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. And then she told me to double-check the location of my interview because the downtown office was not usually where interviews were being held. She was right, of course. But I would not have checked the address, I would have driven downtown, I would have missed my assigned interview slot and the entire process thus far would have been null and void. I would have blown it two steps before the finish line—had I not prayed, that is.
Prayer really isn’t that hard! But when I try to connect with God through my brain instead of my heart, I seem to push Him farther and farther away. That should not surprise me, because God very clearly tells me that His thoughts are not my thoughts. It is my heart that matters to God, not my intellect. So, Note to Self: don’t overthink faith, feel it instead! And don’t overcomplicate prayer, just pray. Nothing will make God change who He is and what He has planned for my life.God will not “let me have it” in response to my prayer. His plan is to prosper me, not to harm me. He will let me experience the consequences of my choices—good and bad—but He will not hand me over to my own stupidity and weakness and wash His hands of me. He couldn’t even if He tried, it is simply not who He is.
Here is my new approach to prayer: Pray often, pray about everything, pray out loud, pray in your own voice, pray with others, pray to a big and holy God with reverence, trust and love. Amen.