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I panic every time, without fail.

The question, “Who wants to pray?” gives me cold sweats.

This question inevitably leads to me avoiding eye contact and paying minute attention to whatever I have in front of me, hoping that someone else steps in. Up until recently, this tactic has worked wonders for me.

Then I joined an Evangelical/Mormon dialogue group and they keep insisting that I pray. It’s awful.

My name is Stephanie and I’m a horrible public prayer-er-er.

Mind you, I have no excuse. I’m a pastor’s kid who is himself and pastor’s kid, coming from a large, charismatic extended family. We pray and give blessings ALL of the time. We sing prayers in the round. We lay on hands/pray before big car trips. We pray in the mother tongues of German or Swedish. We use the phrasing “prayer warrior” more often than you would expect. When someone in my family says they are praying for you – they really, really mean it.

So what’s wrong with me? Here I am raised in a world of prayer and I become a hot mess whenever I have to utter a word in front of others.

I’m not sure what the answer is, but I have come up with two potential roots to my “problem”:

(1) Being raised around, going to school around, and working around the religious has allowed a crutch.

My whole life has basically been spent around religious people. In the “real” world, I am probably seen as pretty “qualified” to give the dreaded prayer before a meal. However, 9 times out of 10, if someone actually wants a public prayer (this never happens with my non-seminary friends), there is usually a pastor in the room with me. Pastor trumps religious scholar. Get out of jail free. Do not pass Go. This has worked wonders for 32 years.

(2) That’s not how I pray.

Only recently did I realize that it isn’t just that I don’t know how to pray publicly (because I really don’t – I have even Googled “how to pray” and “good prayers” numerous times). It’s that I don’t pray like other people do. I have tried. Believe me. Before bed, or a meal, or while I’m in the car – I have tried numerous times over the years.

“Dear God…[enter prayer here]” does nothing for me. I feel nothing. It feels like a bear riding a tricycle – awkward and unnatural. For me, it seems like I’m playing the part of a religious person for others, which I inevitably fail at because my public prayers are full of sweat and a shaky voice and odd sentences.

Don’t get me wrong, I talk to God all the time and I search for God’s answers to my questions and observations in my everyday life. But my “conversations” are never at set times or in a set pattern. I don’t even start any thought or idea with a designated recipient. They aren’t even consistently nice. I get pissed at God all the time. I guess I just assume that God knows which thoughts belong to God. Maybe I should put the extra effort into highlighting which thoughts belong where and to whom. Wait. Is that even prayer? Maybe I’m not praying. Maybe that’s something else.

I digress.

As you can imagine, my method doesn’t translate well to public prayer, hence my predicament. But I can’t not be curious about prayer and what it means to me and to those around me. How do you pray? How did you break the public prayer code? What do you feel when you pray? How do you know you’ve gotten an answer?

I’m genuinely curious. This is a conversation I have always wanted to have, but have never had the guts to bring up because it would mean admitting that I have no idea what I’m doing.

Tell me the secret to an awesome prayer life.

 

In My Sights This Week:

  • We’re making our way through the new season of, “Orange is the New Black”. I was  warned it is going to be brutal so I cheated on spoilers to see if I wanted to be put through it and l stumbled on this awesome article criticizing the show. I was amazed how little I picked up as I’ve been watching it, but I welcome people pointing out how prevalent my lens of white privilege is. This is an every day struggle.
  • Another article that points out how we need to be more conscious of what we’re writing about on Facebook and how it might hurt others. I had heard this criticism before from friends who felt shame about their friends’ travel, but it’s a great reminder.
  • This article on the beginner’s guide to meditation is what sparked this week’s blog.

2 thoughts on “Prayer Stage Fright

  1. I can totally relate to this. I can even recall praying in a circle and then the next person praying almost what I had prayed but only “better.” I felt like I was being “corrected.” I totally freak out going to reconciliation also because I am afraid of “doing it wrong.” Fortunately all the priests I have ever gone to are so awesome and just let me do my own type of prayer in there so it works out, but I still work up a total anxiety attack before I head in. Thanks for the blog post!

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  2. I’ve been praying (out loud) every Tuesday morning at 6am with one of my charismatic friends. She talks to God like God is in the room, and they are having a conversation. I’m all “reverend-y” and freaking out because her prayers are so natural! We pray for 30 minutes!! Who does that? Who prays out loud for 30 minutes? I guess the answer is “I do.”

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