Pray continually…this is God’s will for you.
—1 Thessalonians 5:17–18 (NIV)
I was always terrible at praying. For years, no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t do it. I’d lock myself in my closet, but instead of savoring God’s goodness, I would end up reorganizing. I tried waking up with the sun. I would jump out of bed and kneel down on my bedroom floor. Thirty minutes later, I would wake up in a puddle of my own drool. I recited the Lord’s Prayer. I memorized the ACTS prayer acrostic. I tried. I really did. None of my prayer strategies worked. I was ready to give up on the idea that I would ever be able to establish anything resembling a consistent prayer life, when all of a sudden, it happened. It was an otherwise ordinary day when I finally learned how to pray.
I was two years out of college at the time, still working as an intern at the church in South Florida, and once more I had risen at dawn only to fall back asleep at the foot of my bed. Shaking myself free from slumber and spittle, I grabbed my Bible in frustration and walked out the door to the field behind the house I was living in. Marching resolutely around the field, I was committed to staying awake. That was really it. I wasn’t trying to commune with God as much I was just trying not to fall back asleep.
I marched and ranted up to the heavens. In my 20-odd years of life, I had prayed aloud in public settings and worship events, but I had never done that in my personal prayer time. Something changed. I was still holding my Bible loosely in one hand, swinging it along beside me as I began to talk about my inability to stay awake. “God! What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I stay awake? Am I a fake Christian? Is this whole thing with You pretend or what?”
I’d shout a couple of questions and then read a few verses. All the while, I just kept marching. I felt foolish mumbling to myself. I was self-conscious, wondering if someone was watching. To anyone peering over the gate and into the field, I must have looked like a sweaty-toothed madman running into a spider web, grasping at the air and flailing about. It didn’t matter. I had to find my way. I didn’t care what I looked like if it meant I might actually achieve some sort of communion with the Lord. It was a foolishness I was ready to take on.
Outside, out loud, and moving, I prayed. I didn’t care who was watching or who was misunderstanding. If Jesus was totally fine with being misunderstood, I could be fine with it too. That muggy day in Florida, I found my spiritual footing by simply keeping my feet moving. I was storming around in the grass, muttering aloud, but I managed to pray for more than five minutes. It was exhilarating.
I don’t know what it will take for you, but for me these three simple steps have helped my easily distracted brain stay on course:
- Go outside.
- Pray out loud.
- Keep moving.
It is essential for each of us to find some method by which we can return our minds to communion with God, because perpetual communion is what our God is after.
The above article is excerpted from Finding God’s Life for My Will: His Presence is the Plan by Mike Donehey. Copyright © 2019 by Mike Donehey. Published by WaterBrook, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, on August 6, 2019. Used by permission of WaterBrook. waterbrookmultnomah.com. Pages 133-135. All rights reserved.
BIO: Mike Donehey (@mikedonehey) is the author of Finding God’s Life for My Will: His Presence is the Plan and the lead singer, songwriter, and guitarist for the award-winning contemporary Christian band Tenth Avenue North, whose new album is No Shame (Reunion Records, 2019). Since 2000, he has been sharing the truth of the gospel in front of millions of people through song and speaking. Donehey, his wife, Kelly, and their four daughters live in Nashville, Tennessee.