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i was only sort of half aware that the small group i signed up for was on prayer. mostly i was just down with the leaders, the schedule, and the location. the actual topic was merely an afterthought. if i'd thought it through, i likely wouldn't have put my name down for anything at all, and would have considered my creative team meeting as a small group [which certainly would not have been a bad option].
judging by the obligatory pregame email, the "small" group wasn't looking so small. talking with a friend over lunch last wednesday, i speculated that "only 25% will end up coming tonight." she disagreed, or, at least, was surprised. imagine my surprise when almost EVERYONE on the list showed up. one woman arrived who was not on the list, and much to my dismay, one boy who WAS on the list did not arrive. [confession: the possibility of meeting this mystery man was actually a substantial portion of my motivation to drag myself out of my apartment to this small group].
at this point, i considered the obvious likelihood that God does not want me to meet any new men, ever, during the course of my daily existence and normal routine. i felt somewhat tempted to head for donkey and wallow in a cup of coffee. of course, i made the rational decision to munch on a chocolate chip cookie bar and head upstairs for a study i expected to hate.
much like the 20/30 group of yore, this was more of a crowd than a small group... twenty people by the time the dust settled. with the exception of one couple, i "knew" everyone in the room. we started off by going around the room for introductions, and one of the questions to answer was, "why did you join this group?" when this was announced, i inwardly rolled my eyes and began hating life, expecting lots of flowery answers of people just gushing about how much they looooove prayer and want to do it aaaaall the time.
as it turned out, the first person to speak offered the answer, "i am here because i can't pray anymore." hmmmmm. this could be different than i expected. the next answer given was along the lines of, "my prayer life is nowhere near where i want it to be." ahhh, candor. i was near the tail end of the introductions, which of course gave me plenty of time to come up with a smartass answer.
"well, i'm here because my prayer life is just amazing, and i wanted to, you know, impart my knowledge upon all of you, because something this good, it just... it has to be shared..." thankfully, everyone laughed, and i admitted, "yeah, that's a big load of crap." more laughter. i paused, staring at the floor, gathering my thoughts and contemplating just how candid i actually wanted to be. i looked up and glanced around. "if you want the honest answer..." i trailed off.
"the honest answer is, i don't like prayer."
i continued. "i mean, i like prayer. in theory. i believe it works. i believe we are called to pray. but i don't like it. i'm not good at it. and praying out loud? don't even get me started. i really hate that.
so, yeah. i don't like prayer. but i want to. there's my honest answer."
later, we split into two groups for, well... prayer. duh. and instead of falling into the "usual" unspoken routine, we discussed options -- um, lots and lots of options -- for prayer request time. i was annoyed at first with how overly analytical we were all getting, but i quickly began to appreciate this little group and our collective willingness to shake things up somewhat. and i realized by the end of the evening that i was possibly looking forward to coming back next week. omg.
over the course of the evening i shared some things that i'd always sort of felt, but never [or rarely] ever said out loud. like, i hate when people say things like, "well, i guess no one wants to talk to God" in a guilt-inducing tone after a particularly long pause in prayer or something... seriously, wtf. half the time i don't even have words inside my head for what i'm praying, much less the ability to come up with something audible that is actually coherent enough for other people to understand. we talk about how prayer is listening to God as much as it is speaking to Him, but apparently that only applies when the silence isn't freaking people out collectively.
i think i had a lot more to say but it's late and i can't think straight and this post is already about six days overdue. feel free to add any other candid thoughts and conversation. 
Posted on Monday, October 8, 2007 at 10:53PM by Registered Commentermdog | Comments13 Comments

Reader Comments (13)

The way I see it, god can read your mind, so you don't have to articulate.
Not that I should be giving advice on the matter.

Oct 8, 2007 at 11:39PM | Unregistered Commentersuper des

love the post and your thoughts. When it comes down to it, a large majority of people probably have the same thoughts, including myself much of the time....wish I could take part in the "small" group

Oct 8, 2007 at 11:43PM | Unregistered Commentercd

me neither.

Oct 9, 2007 at 08:43AM | Unregistered CommenterIan

Sigh... so many reasons to dislike prayer. I was always egotistical enough to believe my prayers were important, so not necessarily an issue there... but I more or less despise "quiet times," if that counts.

Oct 9, 2007 at 09:33AM | Unregistered CommenterSarah

word. agreed on so many levels.

Oct 9, 2007 at 11:23AM | Unregistered Commentergwyneth

really liked your thoughts. i often have the same ones...I am glad your group is so honest about their thoughts on prayer...it makes me feel better about my own thoughts and habits.

Oct 9, 2007 at 12:22PM | Unregistered CommenterJen B

Sounds like the kind of group I wish I could be a part of.

I know I'm supposed to like prayer, but I usually just wind up frustrated and annoyed.

Oct 9, 2007 at 03:55PM | Unregistered Commentermeegs

I've never understood praying out loud. It just seems like it's more for the human audience than for God. If you're going to do it, shouldn't it be a personal dialogue between you and God?

Oct 9, 2007 at 08:45PM | Unregistered CommenterTB

amen to what TB said...

Oct 10, 2007 at 09:21AM | Unregistered CommenterIan

TB, although I understand your concerns with praying out loud, I would caution allowing our lack of understanding of something to negate its validity.

Oct 10, 2007 at 02:49PM | Unregistered CommenterJim

Your description of the small group experience was great - I almost felt like I was there (and wish I could have been). I liked how you took it to a deeper level at the end of this post - the comment about the listening to God aspect of prayer not applying in a group setting where silence freaks people out really resonated with me. I've struggled with group prayer (I also hate praying out loud) and I think some of the most meaningful experiences I've had are when we sit together in silence for a little while.

Oct 10, 2007 at 08:03PM | Unregistered CommenterLindsay

My terrible, horrible, awful secret is that I like to pray at night, when I'm in bed, because it puts me right to sleep.

Oct 10, 2007 at 11:19PM | Unregistered CommenterAngie

The shower is my best prayer place, mos def. And sometimes when I'm driving alone.

Great thoughts, mdog. I love it when you're brutal.

Oct 11, 2007 at 01:04AM | Unregistered CommenterLance

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