One of my my all-time top films is ‘Shadowlands’, adapted from the play by William Nicholson. It’s based on the true story of one of my favourite authors, C.S.Lewis. It tells the story of how he talked about suffering as God’s “megaphone to rouse a deaf world” and then experienced this for himself when his wife suffered and died from cancer.
But there is an interesting quote about prayer in the film. It comes from a part of the play when Joy is in brief remission, and the University priest says to Lewis how hard he’s been praying, and God is answering his prayers. But Lewis responds:
“That’s not why I pray.
I pray because I can’t help myself.
I pray because I’m helpless.
I pray because the need flows out of me all the time– waking and sleeping.
It doesn’t change God- it changes me.” – Shadowlands (William Nicholson)
This woke me up to one simple truth.
God doesn’t need us to pray.
He wants us to pray.
He doesn’t need our permission or request to heal someone. He doesn’t need us to tell Him our needs.
God wants us to pray because He wants relationship with us. So we can be transformed.
It’s not like God doesn’t know our needs and needs us to inform Him of them just in case He didn’t see. And He hardly needs persuading to show us His love and grace. I’ve mentioned elsewhere how prayer should, over time, become an ongoing conversation between ourselves and God.
Like a conversation with an old friend.
And in my experience, it’s often messy. Sometimes it’s not polite. Occasionally, it descends into bitterness and anger.
It can be brutal. But it’s always honest. A natural overflow of the heart.
And this is how all prayer should be. Not just a ritual with formal language – though they have their place.
But an overflow of our hearts.
These type of prayers are usually easiest – and most common – in times of crisis. When life is at it’s blackest. There are those moments we’ve all had when all we can do is pray.
In those times we don’t need to think about what to pray do we? The words just pour out of us without a thought.
But doesn’t God want all our prayers to be this honest?
Real, authentic relationship doesn’t often dwell on the formal or make comments for appearances sake. It’s honest, informal interaction about what matters most.
And it’s full of all joy, happiness, sorrow and grief life brings.
We were created for relationship with God. And in real relationship formality is kept to a minimum, and there is complete honesty. Doing nothing out of obligation. And totally honest with others and ourselves.
I don’t pray because I think God needs my prayers. Because He doesn’t. I keep formal prayers to a minimum – though, as I said, they have their place.
I pray because I desire a deeper, more honest and intimate relationship with my creator. (you can tweet that here)
I want to ask Him the difficult questions. To share my deepest concerns with Him. I want to be up front about how angry I am with Him at times. I want an open relationship where I can be free to doubt, question and ask why. And to be able to come to Him as I am, not just when I feel I’ve got it sorted (which, let’s be honest, is probably when I least have it sorted).
Isn’t this better?
Isn’t this what real relationship with God is meant to look like?
Do you agree or disagree? Why?
Why do you pray?
What does real relationship with God look like to you?
Do you need to change your attitude to prayer?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
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