How in the world has it been FIVE months since I last blogged? I mean I know why, but still.
Since my last blog post went live, I've done the following: switched to a new job, got married, went an on amazing honeymoon with my forever boo/new husband, moved to Broad Ripple, launched a new brand at said new job (more on that later), house sat a dog for five minutes, and a million other small accomplishments.
But let's talk about the wedding for a second. It was amazing. I am so lucky to have amazing friends and a great life partner. The day basically consisted of my bridesmaids and I eating hotel continental breakfast while other (fantastic) people set up the venue, putting a dress and makeup on, and showing up to get married, drink beer, and eat Yats. What on God's great Earth is better than that?
I'm working on a job-related blog post right now, but in the meantime, how about some wedding day pics?
XOXO - Eva Christine
Any comments on the post will be shared with Charlie, and feel free to reach out to him personally on Twitter with thoughts as well. If you're ever interested in sharing your own personal thoughts on prayer with my blog audience, please let me know. Lunch/brunch conversations are always welcome too.
The River Has Moved.
I don’t pray anymore. At least not how I used to.
A year ago, I lost my father to pancreatic cancer. Up until that point, I prayed aloud, and often. I spoke prayers of gratitude and thankfulness. I prayed for safe travels and good fortune for others. I thought myself to be spiritually enlightened and safe.
I had lost others before: grandparents, an uncle, but losing my father when he was 55, myself 25, I ran out of words to pray. I recall others praying with us. Aiding us along with words of comfort and affirmation in our time of grief. A few weeks would pass before I began to feel the power of these voices grow quiet.
I’ve always been drawn to the science of prayer. Studies have been performed on the topic of neurotheology and the effects to the body and brain therein. The controversial author Dan Brown even covered some of these topics in his 2009 novel, The Lost Symbol. Like Fox Mulder, I want to believe.
Yet in the weeks after my father’s passing, I grew tired and weary and angry at the silence. “It might be an empty house,” C.S. Lewis wrote. “Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once.”
My prayers, once words, became like the silence I waited in, expecting a response. Shortly thereafter, my prayers became resentful, until my prayers became a single-middle finger extended upward.
What did I have to be thankful for? I had observed a benevolent God briefly draw a spiritually anemic man back into his arms, torture him with disease and take him from the loved-ones that needed him most.
Months later, I sat with a spiritual mentor who shared his own experience of losing his mother just a year prior. After losing his father at a young age, his mother raised him up through his teens and into adulthood.
He described his loss as time spent on a familiar river. All his time there allowed him know, intimately the trees, the rocks, the coolness of the water, before a flood came through and destroyed the serenity.
Once the torrent had passed, the once-familiar bank had changed. The river had moved. It’s flowing in a different path now. Some of the trees and rocks are still there, but not unchanged.
I, too, recognize some of the rocks at my own stream. They are smoother now, softer. Yet there are new rocks as well. Sharper rocks, that cut and hurt and cause me to whimper and groan.
Nine-months later, when the holiday season came, I found myself again in solitude one evening. The celebration of the advent stirred in me memories of child-like wonder at the man my father was.
I prayed that night, but the old formula had given way to something else.
A few syllables were all I could really muster, but I felt a peace about them.
“When I lay these questions before God I get no answer,” C.S. Lewis later wrote. “But a rather special sort of ‘No Answer.’ It is not the locked door. It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze. As though He shook His head not in refusal but waiving the question. Like, ‘Peace, child: you don’t understand.’”
My questions still linger, and my pain, though duller-now, still remains. I will continue to ask my questions; however, knowing that it may never fully be my place to know. This omnipotent being I believe in owes me nothing, yet I know He listens when I do.
I pray again now. At least not how I used to.
So here I am, another month after promising to be more deliberate about blogging, with another blog post in my “Exploring Prayer” series. Are you seeing a trend here?
Honestly, life has been chaos for me recently. Between wedding planning, work life, Monday night trivia (you can find the Big Boyz at the Ram in Noblesville - we won last night, it's cool), and other commitments, this season of life is just flying by. It can be exhausting at times, but honestly, it’s amazing that I have so many wonderful things keeping me busy. As you know, I’ve never been much of a prayer person, but I’m finding a lot of peace in little moments of gratefulness throughout the day.
My friend Abbie, who I had interviewed right after CHRISTMAS for this post (embarrassing), texted me to check in on the interview and used the word chaos to make sure she hadn’t missed me posting it in the craziness of her own life. It’s funny because, when I was telling our friend Morgan about interviewing Abbie, she mentioned that she was astounded that we even found time to get together because we were two of the busiest people she knew. Not sure if we should be proud of that or not, but I’m glad to have had an evening where I could sit down and type out this interview, because Abbie and I had an incredible conversation that I think will be relatable to a lot of readers.
About Abbie Meyer
Abbie and I both went to Anderson University and had a lot of mutual friends in school. However, unlike most of the lovely ladies I’ve interviewed for this blog, it wasn’t until after graduation that we really became close, and by close I mean her bedroom was right next to mine. Abbie was one of my roommates the first year after graduating college (along with my fantastic wonderful friend Nicole), and we bonded over margaritas at La Hacienda and random conversations after she would bust me eating Pringles in my bed while working from home.
Abbie and her husband (who I never saw much while we lived together - sorry that you were real allergic to my cat, Cal) live in Broad Ripple now and live, to my perception, such inspiring prayer and faith-driven lifestyle. I was super excited to sit down with Abbie for this reason. Funnily enough, we spent the majority of the time talking about how frustrating prayer is. Hopefully some of the words from our discussion can provide some peace for any struggles you might currently be having with prayer.
Abbie: So it’s really funny. I was praying last night about this conversation. I don’t know what questions you were going to ask me, but I didn’t want to forget to tell you this. I was just praying and thinking like “I don’t know what I’m going to say today!” But then, I read this passage on prayer - I’m doing this new highlighting system, that’s why this is kind of wild - but I literally just read this passage. Have you read this in James? (Here’s the verse she was referring to: James 5:13-20 - The Prayer of Faith.) I thought that was really crazy because I wasn’t expecting to read that.
E: Well, I have some questions, but I want it to be more conversational, you know? I’ve found the best way to start these discussions is to talk about how your relationship with prayer has evolved growing up. So kind of the role of it when you were a kid - to understand the foundation of it, if that makes sense.
A: I like felt like prayer has always been a source of guilt for me. I am so “Type A” that I think things need to be done a certain way. So I felt like … I never felt like I was praying enough or good enough or the right way.
I don’t remember what I would pray, but when I was a kid I remember having a prayer journal and I would just try to pray all the time. I would try to do the, like, XYZ of prayer, if that makes sense. That pretty much described my faith in general growing up. Whatever I felt like I was supposed to do, I would do it.
When I was in college, I kind of just stopped praying. I mean, I would pray. But they would most just be like little types of prayers - “God, help me with this. Give me strength with this.” I would talk to God, but it would just be here and there. I was really intentional about reading my Bible and doing devotions, but I never felt like I really got a lot out of prayer. And so I never pursued it. And that was for years - like a few years. I didn’t really start pursuing my faith until I was 18, so between freshman and junior year I really wasn’t focusing my time on praying that much.
But then I kept getting promptings from the Holy Spirit - telling me like how important prayer was, but I kept ignoring it. I would read about prayer in Scripture, and I would ignore it. I kept trying to pray, but I wasn’t intentional about it. Then I read the book “Prayer” by Philip Yancey - and he does the same thing that you do in the beginning. He just goes around and talks to people and asks them - if prayer is the most important way to communicate with God, then why so many people feel unsatisfied with it?
I felt like after I read that, it was really important for me to work on this, on prayer. I feel like prayer is really frustrating honestly, like, 65% of the time and maybe 35% of the time it’s really satisfying. So it’s still not a “more satisfying than not” kind of thing for me. But because I’ve been more intentional with it, I’ve seen God work more.
E: What constitutes as a “satisfying” time of prayer for you?
A: A time where I can feel refreshed. A time where I feel like I really connect with the Spirit. And a lot of times it comes from after I pray. So I’ll pray for something specific and watch that prayer request be answered. That is really satisfying because I can be like “okay Lord, you heard me. I want to keep talking to you. And I’ve noticed that when I stop praying, I stop feeling close to the Lord. So I don’t know … there could be a lot of explanation for that. But with my friendships and stuff, when you stop communicating as often it’s just hard to be on the same page. And it’s kind of the same thing with prayer - when I stop communicating with God, I’m not communing with him as much. It’s funny - growing up, I remember having times where I really wanted a relationship like that, but I don’t know if it just felt forced or like I had to.
E: One thing that always frustrated me too was like … you see people who you interpret as being really really good at praying. You see them and think like “you have this nailed down,” but you feel really inferior and feel like there’s something that they have that you don’t have. And honestly it’s probably like what you said - they’re more intentional about it and it’s just more woven into their lives. But it’s so hard to even think about how you’ll get to that point, you know?
A: Yeah. I think one of the reasons that people get so frustrated with prayer is because other Christians aren’t vulnerable with their prayer lives. I think that prayer is hard for everybody and it’s a sacrifice. I think that it would take someone who is, like, old and pursuing prayer their whole life to say “I feel satisfied most of the time.” We all think that other people are better at it. I’m sure you talking to me makes it seem like I’m good at praying, and I definitely don’t think I am. And I talk to people who I think are good at praying, and they would probably say the same thing. You know what I mean?
E: I love that - not feeling like we can be vulnerable about being bad at it.
A: I know! Because it is really unnatural. I mean, it feels so one-sided. But then I think - David was a man after God’s own heart. He committed adultery and he killed people and he was a terrible parent and he was all these bad things. But he was so vulnerable with his prayer life. I think that was a part of it - he could just come to God and talk about what was on his mind. That is something that I’ve figured out. I think you need to be intentional about what you pray for, but there’s not like a formula. So if I am sitting here praying for the city of Indianapolis, but what’s on my mind is my marriage, then I need to be praying for that before I pray about what I “should” be praying for. It’s a conversation, and if it’s forced, your whole heart isn’t going to be behind it. That’s part of what’s helped me grow in prayer.
E: So when you pray, and I know this is kind of a weird question because prayer isn’t a methodical thing like you said earlier, what do you think is the most effective way for you? I feel like journaling is a good method of prayer for me, but it’s not for everyone else, you know? How do you go about starting prayer for yourself?
A: For me, it’s really helpful to set an alarm. So for ten minutes or fifteen or whatever, I’m just going to pray. It’s a good way for me to be really focused on a time to pray. It’s also helpful for me, while I’m reading Scripture to pray through the Word. I found this was a really huge catalyst for growth for me personally in prayer, because sometimes it’s hard to know what to pray. It’s so easy to get into this rut where you’re like “I want this so much and I want to know God so much, but I don’t know how to say what I want to say.” So praying over the Bible has been really helpful for me too.
I also like to pray while I’m in the car. (Throwback here to Morgan Evan’s post a few back - she was a big fan of car prayer too.) This is especially great when you feel like your life is so busy and it’s hard to find that break. That’s a natural break for everyone, or like when you’re in the shower - something that you have to do. I definitely think there is a sacrifice in prayer, and it does take time. That’s why I set an alarm, because even if it’s five minutes or so, you have to be focused.
I’ve also been trying to pray the Lord’s Prayer a lot more too. I feel like I had this breakthrough a few months ago when I was on a run. I just prayed the Lord’s Prayer for like an hour and a half. I just took it and put it in my own words. So like “give us this day our daily bread” - I didn’t necessarily say it like that. Something like “give me what I need to get through this day” is more relatable to me. I need gentleness in my marriage. I need patience in my job. I need all of these things today. So putting it in my own words was so helpful.
E: I really like that. The Lord’s Prayer is so old school, if that makes sense.
A: Yeah, especially with all the “thees” and “thous” and stuff. Jesus gave this as an example of what we’re supposed to be praying. I just kept thinking that it doesn’t seem very relatable, but it’s actually really broad. Like, everything in that prayer is so broad - forgive us, your will be done, so on.
E: I always like asking this question: do you have a tangible example of how this intentional time for prayer has evolved in your life?
A: Totally. I’ll give you a big one and I’ll give you a small one. For the longest time, I’ve been really wanting to do just a period of time in my life where it’s solely devoted to the Lord. A couple of months where God is my focus. I’ve been wanting that even before we got engaged. But then Cal and I got engaged and then we got married, and we kept looking into these different programs.
Maybe like six or seven months ago, Cal approached me about a discipleship training program through our church. It’s nine months here in Indy - and it has a really intense schedule, so you have to be really intentional during that time. There are a lot of relational, financial, and time-involved sacrifices involved. But it’s a whole year where you’re just really intentionally focusing on community - there are only 12 people total in the program. You spend a lot of time on what’s happening in your city. Several mission trips around the States, North and Central America.
Anyway, at the time that he told me about it, I thought "wow, what an awesome experience for him", but never really connected it for us both to be involved. Then, maybe a month later, the Holy Spirit prompted me about it during a church service and I just felt a lot of peace about us both doing it. We prayed about it for a month or two, because it'll be such a sacrifice career wise, and also financially- we’re going to have to push back buying a house. But we ended up committing to do it next year - we’re starting in September and it lasts until May.
Since then, God has been continually answering our prayer, especially with job opportunities for me. I have been approached several times about part time jobs since we made this decision. I’m working at Big Brothers, Big Sisters right now and there is flexibility for hours to increase or decrease as I need them to. Everything is coming into place.
I would say like a smaller answer to prayer is I’ve been doing this devotional on - I’ve posted about this on social media - it’s called “1000 Gifts” by Ann Voskamp. It talks about how thanksgiving is the root of everything. Depravity came into the world because there was a lack of thanksgiving, so thanksgiving leads to peace and joy and being connection with God. So part of it is writing out 1000 gifts that the Lord gives you, and I’ve been trying to do about 30 a day. I’ve just been noticing little things and giving thanks for little things.
And honestly I’ve been having a bad attitude about some of those little things recently. Cal’s been studying for his CPA exam, and I’ve been feeling like I’ve never been able to spend time with him and we keep having to say no to social things. So I’ve been struggling thinking of gifts. I was actually getting weary of living in the city and trying to do this, because I often feel more thankful because of nature - that is God’s creation and I just feel more connected when in that moment experiencing His raw goodness first hand.
So one morning I was thinking, “I haven’t even seen a bird in forever”, and thinking how difficult it has been for me to see Him naturally in the 'concrete jungle' of Indianapolis. I felt like I hadn't experienced nature in so long. And literally no joke, the next day I was running and a bunch of red cardinals were just sitting in a tree. I thought “wow, this is a beautiful reminder.” To me, it was just God saying “I love you.”
This snippet of our conversation is literally a fraction of the great discussion Abbie and I had about prayer, travel, faith and other randomness over our lunch. If you’re interested in hearing all of it, please let me know. As I head into the craziness of wedding season, I’d still love to sit down and commune with you through a prayer discussion. If you’re interested in talking, please email me or send me a text/Facebook message. It’s still really important to me to grow in fellowship through this process, and I appreciate you for reading.
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