Hey friends! I’m back after a holiday hiatus with another prayer discussion to share with you all. Did anyone else feel like this holiday season was particularly insane? Between Christmas parties, New Year’s travels, and getting back into the work grind, I feel like I haven’t had a second to breathe, let alone write about my chat with Bri that happened over a month ago.
Before I get into our conversation, I want to just say that I am honestly not proud of all the excuses I made for not writing this post sooner. It’s so easy to let day-to-day craziness cloud your mind. As I’m sitting here on a Sunday night putting together this blog post, I frankly would rather just be vegging out on my sixth episode of Lost today (yes, we’re working through the series, and yes it’s insane). But the word I’m trying to let guide my 2016 is “deliberate.” When we’re trying to just get through a day, we so often let work tasks or errands or remembering to call your grandma become just another item to hurriedly check off our to-do lists. But by reminding ourselves to be deliberate, it helps resurrect a quality to our everyday lives that brings a better perspective to our priorities.
I’m getting back into a routine with my blog (another NYE resolution - blog twice a month), so I’d love to continue getting together with friends and strangers to discuss your perspectives on prayer. For now, I’ve put together a recap of my chat with Brianna Class, an awesome friend and coworker who you should definitely know.
Bri and I both went to Anderson University, but we were actually more of acquaintances while I was in school. What really bumped up our friend status was a random Facebook message she sent me a few years back, asking me about a sales internship Formstack was hiring for (I had just started there full time). The internship turned into a job, and growing our circles to include lots of mutual friends made her pretty much one of my favorite people.
Her hilarious husband, Jon, is a musician and recording artist in Anderson, where they both live. She also has a really apathetic cat, which I wrote in my notes for some reason, so obviously it made its way into the final blog post. Basically, Brianna is one of the most level-headed, hip people around, so I was really excited when she messaged me at work one day asking to get together and talk prayer. Also, when she was editing this post she emailed me this gif about our conversation, so I'm just going to leave it here:
E: Can you tell me a little more about your relationship with prayer growing up?
B: There are like two specific prayers that I remember saying growing up. As many people probably do, I would pray a lot before bed. You know that “Now I lay me down to sleep” prayer? I probably said that until I was like 15. (laughs) And I would just work through almost a list praying for everyone in my family, my friends - making sure I didn’t miss anyone. I even remember - this is so lame, but also kind of innocent - having people in my life that I prayed for that had died, but being like “I still want to pray for them, God! I don’t want them to be left out.”
My family prayed at dinner, but it was a very specific prayer. We said it every night and it we all said it in unison, and then we were allowed to eat. That was really the extent of my prayer life until I was like 16 or 17.
E: Did your family go to church or were you involved in youth group at all?
B: Yeah. I went to youth camp every summer cause that was kind of mah jam (yes, she said “mah jam” so clearly I had to respect the integrity of that quote). I worked in high school, so going to church wasn’t a priority. But I grew up in the Church of God. (I then asked if this was the reason why she went to Anderson University.) It’s weird. I love the Midwest because of the culture. Where I grew up in Pennslyvania, my family was really one of the only families that I knew who consistently went to church. People might have classified themselves as Christian, but exhibited a really shallow faith. It’s totally the Lord, because there was really no one person or one thing that led me to apply to Anderson. There was just a desire in my heart to go there.
E: How has your prayer life evolved since going to AU?
B: Honestly, the past two years is really when I felt like I’ve grown the most in my prayer life. It’s become more natural, where before it was much more generalized. It definitely started evolving for me during college. My friends have really helped in the process. I’m lucky to surround myself with people who have made it seem so normal and simple. It’s helped make it more of a regular part of my life.
Prayer can still be such a touchy thing, and I kind of feel like AU is an environment where it is encouraged to pray out loud, which is not my norm. I was in a social club, and I can recall a moment of utter humiliation where someone wanted me to pray out loud and I was like “I’ve literally never done this before, and I don’t feel qualified to do this.” I actually feel that way about prayer a lot. (Laughs.) I was so out of my element that someone was being loud during my time to pray, and I actually stopped praying and asked them to be quiet because I was so out of my element. I wanted to disappear. After that, I kind of came to terms with my feelings around praying out loud. I always felt embarrassed when I was asked to do it, but no one should ever feel ashamed or embarrassed to pray.
E: Have you ever experienced any other times like that moment? Where you didn’t feel comfortable praying or felt out of your element?
I actually had an experience happen in February. Sometimes I really struggle with the concept of asking the Holy Spirit to give me a specific word or prayer. I’m like “there are no words coming to my brain right now.” (Laughs.)
I went to Oklahoma City with a friend for a couple of days, and we stayed at a church there. Honestly, it was one of the most spiritually stretching weeks of my life. The church we stayed at was a growing church in a huge building. They renovated a floor and had 6 or 7 men staying there, basically living a monastic lifestyle. They were living and working for the church and were really awesome people.
One night, I had just gotten back from dinner and just wanted to go to bed. But the people living at the church wanted to show me around and invited me to a time of prayer and worship. It was totally the Lord pulling me into that situation, because it ended up being a really great night of experience and people speaking visions over my life. It was super charismatic and awesome. But afterward, this girl was asking for prayers for healing and this guy kept saying like “I really feel like Bri has something to say right now.” I kept trying to make gestures to get out of it, but he kept saying it.
I feel really uncomfortable when people call you out to do stuff like that. I truly don’t feel like it’s the Lord if you experience so much anxiety around praying in a situation. He mentioned multiple times afterward that he felt like I just had a word or image. I really feel like I need to be comfortable with people to experience prayer like that, not after I’ve only known someone for one day.
Oddly enough, after that, I’ve had multiple visions come to fruition, but it’s been a process of wanting it and being open to the idea. That was really one of the first times where someone was like “hey, you can do this.” So, as uncomfortable as it was at the time, I’m really glad that I was pushed outside of my comfort zone there.
E: I’m really curious to know more about how prayer plays a role in your marriage with Jon. I know Jon grew up with a pretty religious background, so I’d love to know more about how you both viewed prayer before your marriage and how you’ve evolved as a couple.
B: I think we kind of both viewed prayer the same growing up, although prayer was probably a more comfortable subject to him growing up. But when we first met, it’s not like we were both like, “We need to pray over whether we should date or not.” (Laughs.) Jon and I pray out loud together before going to bed almost every night. It’s kind of a cool tradition between us now. We needed some Jesus in our relationship, and it’s created a lot of peace. I’ve become much more comfortable with praying out loud through this practice.
It’s interesting, because prayer is one thing we don’t often talk about, but we focus a lot of time on evolution and more like science and faith. We’re both really close with some people who have a lot of questions about faith and God in general, and that was a wake up call for the both of us because we realized we needed to be able to defend our faith a lot more. It’s challenging when you talk to someone who doesn’t believe in what you believe in, and then they’re super well-educated in their thought-life. You’re like “Well, shit. I don’t know my stuff, and that feels dumb.” I’ve found a lot of freedom in exploring that journey and questioning my faith and looking for answers. And overall, prayer has become more comfortable through this exploring of my faith.
Brianna and I talked a lot about the role of science in faith and how to address common questions around Christianity from a more analytical lens. If you want to hear our entire recording, please let me know. I’ve mentioned this podcast here before (two or three times), but I highly recommend you check out The Liturgists if this is something that you personally struggle with. My small group started listening to it three or four months ago and it’s great material for conversation around this topic. Start with this one.
As always, if you’re interested in getting together or know someone who might have a cool perspective on prayer, I would love to talk to them! Please send me an email or leave a comment below.
I really appreciate all of you for reading.
XOXO - Eva Christine