I typically drive into the city several times a week for a variety of reasons. On more than one occasion, my drive time becomes an opportunity for my wife and I to catch up on things we missed out on while being apart. There was a time, however, when I was fairly uninterested in being on the phone for any lengthy duration while driving.
It is tiresome to steer with one hand while holding the phone up to your ear with the other. After a few minutes, you have to brace your elbow up on the car window ledge to prop your arm up. This is so we don’t have to draw upon that phone holding strength on our own any longer.
I might should confess another reason I was uninterested in being on the phone while driving. Music, audiobooks, podcasts, sports radio, I love to listen to things! I know that you too, dear reader, have had your cruise control set on 70MPH while rolling down I-40, singing at the top of your lungs to Phil Collin’s “I Can Feel It Coming in the Air Tonight.” And just as you belt out, “Well the hurt doesn’t show, but the pain still grows. It’s no stranger to you and me,” you unwittingly take both hands off the wheel to air drum along with the most epic intro drum fill to ever come three minutes and forty seconds into a song.
Suddenly, the phone rings.
You are not only left without getting to sing “doo doo da doo doo da doo doo ba dum bum” along with the drum fill, but you were also scared halfway into the next lane because you never changed from the factory ring tone. Heart pounding and out of breath, you answer the phone, “Hello?”, in the calmest, and normal tone possible.
Things are different, now. Among other things, the ability to have hands-free calling has eliminated the crick in the neck we used to get trying to hold the phone with our shoulders. Without the action of lifting and talking into a physical device, and straining to listen through the devices tiny little ear speaker, you could almost forget the person you are talking to isn’t right there next to you. If hands free helped address the need to hold the phone, then it was a loving relationship with my bride that changed my perspective on the rest. Since I know how much I love to be engaged in good listening materials while driving, how much more do I love listening to the voice of my wife as she shares her thoughts, her stories and her ideas and ambitions. Investing in who she is as a person should be and is as compelling as any true crime podcast.
Being able to feel like my wife is next to me as we talk makes it easy to carry on the conversation for the entirety of a drive. Sometimes, we talk about several things. Sometimes, we have enough to say about one subject to fill up the drive, the walk up and into the house, and all the way into the same room she’s in by the time I hang up. Sometimes, we just stay on the line in silence for several minutes at a time before picking up another topic, being contented by just knowing we’re together even when we can’t see each other.
What should we call this? Experiencing the fullness of relationship, or “relationshipfulness”? What about the fullness of human connection, or “humanconnectionfulness”?
What if you were able to have this kind of relationship with Jesus? You’ve already been singing along to Phil Collins since 1981, “I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life, oh Lord,” so that’s a start!
Do you know that God is with you even when unseen? You can talk to God as though God were in the seat next to you. And there never has to be a beginning or an end to your prayers. Prayer is an ongoing conversation within a loving relationship with the Lord. This is part of experiencing the fullness of prayer, or prayerfulness.
Prayer does not require a specific location. Imagine telling your spouse that you are only able to communicate with them when you are at home together at the kitchen counter? The lack of time and opportunity to meet in that space would cause you to not experience your relationship in its fullness. In the same way, our loving Savior is waiting to hear from you whether you are on a walk, mowing the yard, or on your knees at the altar of a church. It is not where you pray, but that you pray.
Prayer is not reserved for a certain time of day. Imagine telling your children that you are only available for them from 5:30 - 7:00AM on odd days when it’s not a leap year. I’d venture to guess that not only do your children need you more often than that, but you probably need them just as much. God loves you and desires a two-way relationship with you. One where God demonstrates love through blessings and grace. One that also calls you to offer the gifts and skills that God gave you to love and serve others. The best way to find out what that specific calling is for you is to ask! “God show me the places my gifts will best fit and help me recognize your nudges.” It is not when you pray, but that you pray.
Prayer, private or public, does not require owning a bible nor is it necessary to be able to speak as though you were reciting poetry at the Mozart Festival. There’s nothing that says “I love you,” to a friend quite like putting on airs and saying rehearsed formalities that are over their head. I know my friends would sniff out insincerity in no time. God knows your heart and mind. You were created to be exactly who you are. You do not need to pray any differently than you would talk to your best friend. It is not how you pray, but that you pray.
Prayer does not require you to go through some religious leader or head of church in order to talk to God. No one is so holy or has such authority as to play gate keeper between you and your heavenly parent. You have direct access! How impersonal would it be to have to go through your child’s teacher to have a conversation with your very own offspring? It would violate all kinds of boundaries to need to go through your spouse’s boss to let your very own life partner know you plan on putting the household on a cabbage soup diet.
Prayer is as casual and accessible as hands-free calling. From the time you wake up and thank God for a beautiful morning to that moment you start to drift off while thanking God for another day, there is an open line of communication with the one who created every star in the sky and every hair on our heads.
At times, prayers, like popcorn, will pop into our thoughts quickly and consist of several people and situations that are on our hearts. Other times, we have enough to pray about on one topic to fill up the whole day. Sometimes, we pray by pausing in silence. The spirit within us prays on our behalf for the things our mind may not know how to pray for. Even in the silence there is peace from being engaged in the salve of prayer.
We often get too busy to pray. There is always something of more importance we must do or focus on. Facebook to scroll through with posts we’re dying to comment on. Work that has piled up and can’t wait for a few extra minutes. A documentary series on the exotic world of big cats and a man who may or may not have been fed to Tigers. But, as we fall more in love with God and grow more conversational with God, we will desire to pray often and without pomp and pageantry. When we learn to pray at random, before, in the middle of or following any circumstance, knowing God is always listening, we start to recognize God’s presence and blessings all around us.
A still small voice can be felt, can be heard, in sudden memories playing like old home movies across your mind’s eye or new ideas that sweep across our frontal lobes. In music that strikes a chord within our core. In the laughter of children and the greetings of neighbors. Are you listening? That voice whispers a love story from the very creator who knew you before you ever took a breath of air. When being in prayer is a part of all aspects of your life, it becomes the car window ledge propping your arm up. Experiencing the fullness of prayer means we don’t have to draw upon that holding life together strength on our own.
So, sing for fun, sing in prayer or at the top of your lungs! God is listening, maybe singing along and undoubtedly playing the best air drums Phil Collins could ever imagine.
This week's blog writer is Tate Monroe. Tate is the Director of Adult Discipleship and Student Ministries at Shawnee St. Paul’s Methodist Church. Tate also has a passion for community development and serves on non-profit boards and advisory committees in Shawnee. When the opportunities arise, Tate loves performing on the stages of Shawnee Little Theatre and Lincoln County on Stage. You may have seen him most recently in a custom-made lime green spandex jumpsuit and disco silver platform shoes in the role of Harry in SLT’s production of Mamma Mia. Tate has also taught theatre workshops for children at the Mabee–Gerrer Museum of Art.