I grew up (or I guess you can say I am still growing up) in a Christian home, Pentecostal to be exact.
Everything in my life was based around trusting in God and His word and knowing that everything will be alright.
But, seeing my parents fight, fight, fight and being borderline obese told child-me that maybe everything wasn’t alright.
Still, I tried my best to believe in Him, dedicated my life to Christ again and again, cried…and feverishly hoped for a better life. Nothing seemed to change.
While I didn’t stop believing in the God I learned about in my small church in Brooklyn, I stopped believing that He loved me.
I felt that I wasn’t good enough to be loved by anyone including Him, and I pushed Him aside. I had to find happiness in another way, I figured. I was loved but in the wrong way; in a bad kind of way that made me want to hate myself.
Hate was something that rested on my heart and I began to fall apart.
Today, I can say the word “love” without that disgusting knot in my stomach…a knot that stopped me from feeling it.
You may know what I mean. You may have felt unwanted in your life before or you may have gone through trials. If you haven’t, you will. At some point in our lives we all go through tough spots.
And when we meet this fate, prayer can help get us through it.
The way I learned how to pray was loud and boisterous, almost theatrical. Screaming at God and pumping a fist in a seemingly angry way. I tried, as a child, to pray like the elders in my church and so show that I was a “good Christian” too. But I could never connect to those people. I didn’t understand the weird tongues they spoke when deep in prayer—I just laughed when they jumped up and down, then fell on the floor. They wanted attention.
In this way, prayer became a joke to me; a game.
Last year, when my mom brought me back to church, she said, “we need prayer.” The discomfort I felt as I walked into the sanctuary is inexplicable. Something inside of me felt like it wanted to jump out and escape the power-filled building. But I pushed through the feeling and continued to attend the church.
As I started going on a regular basis, that feeling went away and there was something different residing inside of me. There was a desire to know God in the way that they did, the way that made them happy. I continued listening to the Bishop, reading my Bible, and was doing well in school but I still felt so distant from this higher being; I felt distant from myself.
I didn’t understand that prayer was a continuous conversation with God and, ultimately, with myself. I learned from Pastor Mark Graham that prayer is meant for us, not God. He knows everything so it wouldn’t be necessary to tell him things or ask because He is supposed to provide our every need.
Prayer is for us…what?
I didn’t have a clue what that meant, but I decided to try praying the way he taught me and the rest of the youth in my church:
· Find a quiet space.
That’s often the hardest part. We have so much going on that even in the privacy of our bedrooms our minds don’t seem to cease. I began taking baths and long showers which gave me a quiet time of relaxation. I was able to open up and just talk about my day, about my feelings. It didn’t start out as being to anyone in particular, but by the end of the bath, I’d find myself crying and praising God. I learned that He would speak to me through my own voice. It is necessary to relax and let go to truly hear Him.
· Acknowledge God.
Give thanks for life. This is humbling as well as definitive of all of the positive things within your life. As I began to mature in my prayer life, I realized that it was important to give praise and thanks for the little things and the big things. It not only is required from God, it reminds you that you’re not alone.
There comes a point in which you have to stop talking and listen for the voice within you. Although things about yourself will be revealed through continuous talking and questioning, the necessary answer will be revealed through the voice within you. God answers us with a quiet voice that can only be heard in the midst of silence, submission, and faith.
· Accept the answer you are given.
Don’t try to rationalize it or analyze it. When I first started hearing God’s voice, I thought it was my own subconscious pushing me to do what either I was afraid of or what I wanted to do. I realized that as I started implementing faith into my listening, I began to progress and prosper. Sometimes you may not get the answer you want or expect but it is the answer that will lead to a blessing.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Jan Crewe
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Leland Franciso/Flickr