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  • Writer's pictureBryan Jun

when I pray

I've been pretty exhausted recently for a wide variety of reasons - frankly most of the reasoning is all internal and aspects of my life I'm choosing to be stressed about. The pandemic provided an excuse for most people to be overly introspective and the one bad byproduct of that is hyper awareness of where you've been, where you are and where you're headed. Much of this brings on a whole array of unnecessary stresses and concerns, stemming from a completely artificial internal drive and need to meet expectations that aren't any more concrete than the late night thoughts you have before bed. For most (if not all) of my 24 year lifetime, I'm extremely privileged (as much as I hate this word) to say that "objective" parts of my life has always been superb. I've never had health issues, no family problems, food always on the table, friends to spend time with - the list can go on. It's inherent in human nature to have our minds wander to any problem we can find when other parts of our life are great - any time something is resolved, it's as if our brain get hungrier to latch on to the next issue that needs to be resolved, even when the thing that bothers you next wasn't even an issue before.

I don't want this post to serve as a means of me complaining about the the trivial stress points of my life. I want to talk about what leads us to pray, when we should be praying and how my prayer behavior has transformed recently. Prayer's the one aspect of our faith that I think is the most challenging, because it lacks structure and there's really nothing concrete to it outside of it being a "conversation with God." In fact, it's one of the most criticized aspects of Christianity as the idea that you're telling someone that already knows everything and decided everything the things you want inherently doesn't make sense. It's like going up to a cashier at a restaurant and letting them know you're hungry or telling your employer that you want your paycheck. I still struggle with this somewhat - but as a relatively easy to understand analogy, I'm going to turn to my favorite trope of relationships. I think a lot of the times couples (typically one way here but I don't want to turn this post political) expect the others to know what's wrong or ask what's wrong without explicitly saying what's wrong. I'm not saying God behaves like a highschool girlfriend nor am I condemning this behavior - I think it's quite logical (to a certain extent) to expect a loved one to bring out what you really want to say without having to explain every step of the way. It solidifies the fact that you (1) care about the person in front of you and (2) know them well enough to identify what's wrong without it being stated. While God does have a master plan and is omniscient, it's part of the journey and growth for us to figure this stuff out with his guidance, where I think prayer comes into play. A lot of the times (certainly myself included), we take prayer as a means of a support ticket at an IT firm - submitting one offs whenever there's something wrong in our life or a thank you card in the few times we remember to thank Him for all the blessings in our life. That's not a relationship you want with anyone - if you don't want a bond with someone to be a service or a Fiverr subcontractor, I would expect the same if not more for the divine being that supposedly loves you more than anyone else.

I'm no theological expert and a lot of it, on a secular level, could be confirmation bias, but in hindsight there's always a reason why God "made" you pray at a certain time in a certain way. I think prayer is always paired with the trenches in our life where we feel that there's no way through it (or at least no breezing by), but He's there to support us both in presence and prayer. Much like getting calluses on your hands from working out, the act of prayer thickens as you become more accustomed having it be a part of your lifestyle rather than a 100% intent-oriented action that you only partake in when something goes wrong in your life. It's like only texting a girl to go on dates with after drafting a long and thoughtful message with your boys and then as the relationship develops the conversations flow more freely and talking to her is a natural part of life (I promise I'm not lonely!) It's something I'm really working on and struggling with as I think we've all been taught prayer to be a burning sensation of tears and confession of struggle through our retreat days when in reality it's really more of a conversation with someone who knows you better than anyone else.

This is not to say that we shouldn't reach out to God for help - all the greats, including Jesus, did so in the bible. In fact, I'm of the belief God wants us to turn to Him just like our parents (as much as they say suck it up sometimes) secretly want us to ask for help in times of need. But just like our parents, no one wants to be reached out to just in times of need - helping out accompanies a genuine relationship, not the other way around. Again, I don't plan on stopping the complaining and the requesting to the Lord any time soon - there's so many (big or little) issues in my life that I simply can't handle myself. If that were the case, I wouldn't be human. However, I do think that talking is an integral part of any relationship and if you keep the Lord afar and only come close when you need him, the genuineness of the relationship is inevitably going to decline.

Praying is not about holding two hands together and going through a list of your Christmas wishes - it's telling someone who's more excited about your existence than yourself about how you've been, how you are and how want to be and asking for what the recipient wants as you know for a fact He knows best.

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