When I spend time with a friend, I want that person’s presence. After a while, a phone call or an e-mail just isn’t good enough—I want a body to hug, a face to gaze upon, the whole person behind the phone voice and the written words. God wants our whole presence, not just our thoughts flung heavenward when we have a second and just our emotional overflow when the day has gone sour. Prayer is the sharing of presence.
One reason prayer can seem unnatural is that we don’t go about it naturally at all. We feel that we must assume a certain physical position, or that we must use some words and phrases but not others. It’s all right to feel joy and gratitude, but we try to push the anger and sadness back and out of the way.
Actually, sometimes we’re tempted to pray sort of the way we’d go through a job interview—putting out our best appearance and conversation, and presenting the self that we think will make the best impression.
Or, we are so used to other people judging and shaming us that we bring to God the self that is least likely to get us into trouble.
What do you bring to prayer? What language? What emotion? What facial expressions? What movements of body?
Are you entering a conversation with a tricky deity who is impossible to please? Or are you entering a conversation with someone who loves you better than the “bestest” friend?
Try this: After you have enjoyed a conversation with a friend, reflect on your part of the conversation. Write down what you said, what tones of voice you used, which physical gestures. Write about how you felt and how you expressed those feelings.
Then, when you pray, remember that marvelous self that you shared with your friend. Try to bring that self into conversation with the Divine friend, and see what happens.