What if prayer is more than feeding quarters to the slot machine and waiting for it to spit out gifts?

I read a blog post last week about prayer. Specifically, the author asked her readers to stop praying for her husband. She said that after two and half years, she’s decided it doesn’t work and so she’d prefer it if people just stopped.

She advocated prayer through action instead.

Instead of praying for her husband, love on him.

Instead of telling the person who’s dying of a terminal disease that you’re praying for them, be with them, hold their hand when they haven’t got words. Just be there.

And I can see a lot of sense in that.

It reminds me of a running joke in my husband’s family. Every Christmas when he was a kid, they’d get a card from a distant family member that was signed off with the phrase ‘love and prayers’.

What did those prayers mean to a family who hadn’t spoken to each other in years?

When ‘I’m praying for you’ becomes short hand for ‘I don’t know what else to do or say and, if I’m honest, I don’t really want to have to ‘do’ anything’, where’s God’s love in that?

That said, I’m not ready to give up on prayer just yet.

I don’t know how it works and I know I don’t want to be guilty of ‘feeding the slot machine’ thinking, but what I do know is that prayer, when it’s working how God planned it, is meant to be a conversation, not a shopping list.

And yes, I’m keenly aware that ‘conversation’ is a two-way thing and that means stopping and just listening from time to time. What can I say, I’m a work in progress!

What if we approached prayer how we might approach a conversation with our mum or dad?

What if we knew, deep in our core, that the person we were speaking with loved us, unconditionally, just as we are right now? How would that change things?

And what if we knew that he was interested in everything, all of it, not just the stuff we deem as ‘holy’ or ‘spiritual’?

Because spoiler alert: All of it is spiritual and all of it is interesting to God.