Prayer has been on my mind a lot lately which is interesting because I haven’t been praying much.

photo credit: Teri Lynne Underwood via creative commons

photo credit: Teri Lynne Underwood via creative commons

I will say a prayer before going to sleep at night and when I wake up but both total less than a minute. Most of the time they are followed by a deep breath. In the morning it’s a breath trying to wrap my head around everything I have to do during the day and at night it’s a deep breath to compensate for the overwhelming feeling of everything which didn’t get accomplished during the day.

I feel guilty for praying about the small things in life which are big to me. When we were in the process of selling our home last year I prayed a lot and thus felt guilty a lot. Here I was selling a home for no reason other than I wanted a better home. There wasn’t anything wrong with what I was doing, however, I prayed about it a great deal. I was nervous we were going to make a mistake. Things couldn’t have worked out any better. I don’t feel guilty for praying because I believe there should be an open conversation going on between God and myself. I should tell him when I’m frustrated and when I’m at peace. I should talk to him when I’m stressed out and when I’m content. There is something which gnaws at me about praying for a good situation I want to be great. Shouldn’t I pray more for people who are hurting and need help? I have a laundry list of problems I review with God regularly. Most of them are small even insignificant. I do have bigger issues I pray about. We all have at least one thing which constantly weighs on us. It might have only been weighing on you for a few months, a few years, or perhaps you don’t remember a time when it wasn’t a burden in your life. I find in my own weird way I don’t even want to talk to God about it. He knows what’s going on. It’s not like he forgot it was bothering me or that he doesn’t know that it’s a problem. Why do I pretend it doesn’t exist when I’m talking to him? Why do I wish that it would mysteriously go away like a character from a 90s sitcom? I think sometimes I can ignore situations and they will solve themselves. Maybe that is why I don’t pray about the bigger issues in my life.

In San Francisco last October I saw the second largest homeless population in the U.S. scattered throughout the downtown area. If I’m honest I feel like most of these people have made decisions to put them there. I walked by them pretending I didn’t hear their pleas for help.I don’t know their story. I remember seeing one lady in particular and the look on her face is seared into my memory. She had a scared and overwhelming expression which made me feel something. I saw two kids near her and another older lady who was perhaps her mom. I’m sure in that moment she felt scared and desperate. She looked like someone who had the responsibility of raising kids but didn’t have the means to do anything about it. She held up a sign on a piece of cardboard that I didn’t read. There is a good chance she is in that exact same spot right now with the exact same look on her face. Two days later I was sitting at the gate praying for my delayed flight to take off. It’s irrelevant if the woman I saw was in that position for justified reasons. She was there likely praying for help. I was looking at a watch I bought several years ago that I couldn’t afford and thinking about how I wasn’t going to get much sleep in my nice home. I prayed to God asking to get home quicker and she might have been praying for her next meal for her kids. Shouldn’t God be much more concerned about what she is going through then my selfish problems?

I love what Michael Hidalgo says,

The expectation of good things is a message peddled and preached from pulpits across America and held onto as God’s shining truth by millions. It should be no surprise, then, to find our prayers and requests are often in the direction of benefiting us. But this is misguided. Does God care about us? Yes. But this should not be confused with God ensuring our pleasure and giving us what we want. As long as our comfort and wants are the focus of our prayers, we will remain the dangerous place of falling asleep in the comfort of our privilege. Prayer has the power to change us, rather than only ensure our happiness.”

He goes on to say, “Prayer ought to move us away from a selfish way of living toward a selfless way of living. If we are honest, praying for trivial things—a good parking spot, green lights, our team to win—is quite self-centered.”

So I’m trying to not only pray more but pray for others. Pray for things which don’t benefit me at all. You should do the same.