“… I would later realize that this deep study for the Bible was doing something to me. I was being drawn closer to God in a way I wasn’t feeling before. The life in God’s word was working on me even without me realizing it!!!” (Previously)
My classes became interesting every passing moment. I started looking forward to the Saturday classes and all week long, I couldn’t stop thinking about how the classes would be. We used to have different teachers who would take us through different topics and then after class we would have fellowship. At this time it never occurred to me this was fellowship… To me it was just some ordinary complicated Jesus talk. I floated through most of it actually. Only the testimonies made sense because that is what I could easily grasp. You know, testimonies are like these interesting stories that I couldn’t get enough of. They seemed to me like a mix of adventure or drama and a little of fiction sprinkled in there to make it work. The teachers and facilitators who came to the classes could instruct us and direct us on biblical principle. I came to learn that they were skilled in different areas. For instance, the one who took us through ‘Understanding Kingdom Finance’ was a businessperson – and doing well actually, the sermons we listened to, in regards to the topic taught us how to be good stewards, more so in the work of God.
However, not all parts of this training were favorable to me. I was unusually uncomfortable with prayer!!! What!!!! Prayer, was something else to me back then. I was aware that I needed to pray more. It was easy to read in the Bible & on articles and hear men of God saying that prayer is a conversation with God, but I never got it. I never got it! Every time we were asked to pray, I would get down to my usual prayers – silently and in 5 minutes I was done… My! My! My! The rest of the time I wouldn’t stop thinking how long these people have to keep me here waiting. I haven’t even got to the part of praying in tongues – yet!!! Over time, I thought I got wiser by reciting all the prayers I knew. I tell you, I could pray the Lord’s prayer like thirty times, the Hail Mary like fifty times, the apostles creed like twenty times, acts of contrition etc etc everything like one hundred times and repeat this until I could hear the leader bringing the prayer session down to a close. Heavens! Did I suffer during this season and many others that would follow! I did not have the littlest of concepts of what prayer is.
One thing is certain; I was a very good reciter of prayer. Back then, I did not even expect God to speak to me. Why was he speaking to me anyway? Up to this point in life, there is nowhere I had been exposed to God speaking to me. – Yet it was right there in my hands all this time – The Bible. At level one being the word of God. If you are reading this as a seasoned believer, you are probably wondering how I was reading the bible… Simple. The Bible was another wonderful book written by God inspired people that I was really having fun reading. On one of these occasions, one of the facilitators happened to walk right next to me and I was very busy shouting to the Lord inside my heart – Why were these people praying loudly anyway? And she said “Pray Chris Pray!” I would then go again: “Thank you father… Our Father who art in heaven…” times one million.
Over time though I did not notice at first, I realized a few things were happening to me. For starters, I noticed that I never really pray. Even with a few crammed prayers in my mind, I never used to pray. Especially in my alone time. I could just start as I was taught to start, and then I would just find myself at the close of prayer saying amen. I mean… I lost myself in the recitation that prayer had become such a technical & subconscious activity over the years that it had become something that I just do because it is important. Something that I just do to get it over with and do the next. Be it for food, in the morning, at bedtime. It had become so conditioned an activity I do, that I never even realized that I was praying/ reciting prayer during these times. Therefore, the first thing was my conscious was awakened… Now I started “crawling” at prayer. They were still recitals yes, but I was now more careful and I started meaning it… The second thing that happened is I started laying down my needs to God. Asking for this and that personally, when everyone else was praying. I started looking forward to prayers of the faithful once more during mass so that I could sneak in a few of my prayers in there as well. Gradually my confidence grew and I started to also ‘ask’ God while in those public prayers.
It took me some time to pray audibly, and it also took me some time to gain the confidence to ask God for my things in public… Well, at the time, I knew praying to God is only asking Him about things. I had not been taught about the whole concept of prayer, but I had been taught specific prayers for specific situations. Well, and on a deeper level, specific saints and angels to pray ‘through/ to’ for specific issues – Catholics will understand. Frankly speaking, in my early years of my salvation, I really struggled with prayer. I literally did not know how to pray. Coming to think of it at this particular time in my journey, had I known the simplest concept of what prayer is at that time I would have worked on becoming better at it. I would have worked a better relationship with God.
The walk with God is a relationship. Relationships struggle without communication, or with poor communication. That’s basically what prayer is all about. It is communication with God. It is a conversation with God. You can imagine, all this time, I am reading the bible, but I am not praying… I can now imagine God was right there speaking and speaking and speaking to me and all I needed to do at that time was to tell Him “Lord… teach me how to speak to you, teach me how to pray…” The only way to know how to pray is to pray. Just like practice makes perfect. The word of God goes hand in hand with prayer and as I came to learn later, it becomes easier over time, confidence grows and gradually that conversation with God becomes better and more intimate. Years later, my steps have been focused towards getting better at conversing and listening to God more keenly. I haven’t reached there yet, probably way off but eventually I will… As long as I don’t stop, and I am not planning to stop.