Small Talk Prayers

Today marks twelve years since the September 11th attacks on the United States. I remember it well. My whole Biology class gathered around a crappy Panasonic TV to watch our nation get attacked, live. I think no one breathed or blinked for an hour. From there, we went straight to the Chapel to pray. (I went to a Christian school) You likely didn’t go to a Chapel, but you probably prayed. It seemed like everyone did. Do you remember? The packed churches, reflective poems, go-get-‘em country songs, and all of the prayers, or "moments of silence." Regular church-goers know that eventually attendance dwindled. Country songs went back to being about beer and girls. And most people reverted to attending church on Christmas, Easter, and now on each year’s September 11th.

It’s easy to want to pray on days like that- days like today. But when it gets down to it, if you’re honest, it can be hard. If we're honest, most of us are out of practice.

You know when you see someone you haven’t seen in awhile? Conversation is guaranteed to be awkward, at least at first. It’s usually surface-level small talk, and during most of the conversation, your primary objective is to find a way out. It’s uncomfortable, impersonal, and unnatural. And that’s what so many of us bring to God. Here’s what our small talk prayers look like:

“God, help us. Protect our nation. Guide our government to make the right decisions. Keep us from harm. Bless me. Help me get that job, that house, that whatever. Keep my kids safe...”

A noble prayer, sure. But do you notice what our “small talk prayer” really is? A to-do list! We come to God with an itemized report of what we need. What if when you saw that friend you haven’t seen in awhile, you said, “Dear Sarah, I need you to watch my kids this Friday night, tell me how to handle this argument with my husband, and endorse my skills on LinkedIn.” Awkward.

Today, I urge you to try a new conversation style. Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving…” We are to approach God with praise and thank-you’s. Take a stab at it today. Instead of bringing requests and needs, enter his gates with thanksgiving. I bet you’ll be a more grateful, positive person in the process. Here’s a simple guide to help get you started.

  1. Thank God for His blessings in your own life. Get specific. Family, job, friends, basic needs, joy…
  2. Thank God for His hand on the United States. Regardless of your political affiliation, there’s no doubt that God has favored this nation.
  3. Thank God for His provision that is to come. Thank Him in advance for what He’s going to continue to do in your life. Believe this is true.

Let us know how it goes.

[By the way, another way to get more comfortable praying is to practice.]