My name is Mark. I’m a recovering religious addict.
You should know this on day one of this blog about prayer. Truth be told, launching “Prayer Plain and Simple” with Nicole Symmonds is part of my treatment. We want this to be a forum of discovery, a place where we can discuss the spiritual discipline of conversing with God in down to earth ways, moving beyond pious posturing to real authentic and honest relationship.
Hopefully, knowing that others will be reading and responding to posts about my personal encounters with God will hold me accountable to my sobriety. Please, if you catch me stumbling back into religiosity, call me out. I know from experience it can happen very easily.
My biggest challenge is my career: I am a pastor. Like a sober alcoholic working as a bartender, I’m around my drug of choice 24/7. This makes life very dangerous. As a pastor, and the son, grandson, and great grandson of pastors, religion is a kind of family business. I understand the gig. I know the theology of talking to God. I’ve developed reasonable answers for most of the questions people have about prayer. I can teach others how to relate with God, and the principles do generally work. All this earns me kudos for my work because being a pastor is a task to perform, a task that falls out of my words and deeds with natural ease. So it seems.
That’s the danger. Because I can look religious, my personal relationship with God can easily take on a posture-position without me realizing it. My prayers can end up with a double purpose – for God and the ears of others around me – and therefore cease to be prayer at all. God help me!
Actually, my relationship with God is the most important relationship in my life. I want it to be real, vital, fresh and natural. I struggle to keep it so because I can’t easily break free from the formulas I’ve mastered, and masquerade.
So I make these commitments on day one:
· Behind all my talk about talking to God, I will first talk with God, secretly.
· I believe God answers prayer and that he does so in surprising ways. I’ll continue to expect this and to look in those surprising places for his responses.
· I’ll remember to speak with God naturally, in and through the ordinary rhythms of my life – while I’m brushing my teeth and on the borderlands between waking and sleeping.
· I’ll look for God to answer with more conversation and more questions, not merely with the actions I request. In other words, I won’t merely pray “to do” lists.
· I’ll converse, and I won’t be impatient when God keeps the tennis match going without seeming to do what I expect.
You have my permission: Ask me how I’m faring resisting the urge of religion. I want to know God and to be known. That’s all. If you smell piety on my breath, intervene.
Question: Do you ever feel like a religious addict? Is it hard for you move beyond posturing into true prayer? Do you ever want a more genuine relationship with God? Let’s talk about it…