I’m joining the synchroblog for the release of A Christian Survival Guide: A Lifeline to Faith and Growth by answering this prompt: ‘What saved your faith?’
As a child I learned to pray by way of recitation and counting of beads. With my plastic rosary clutched between my small hands, I’d go through the Hail Mary repeatedly, hoping that by offering the prescribed number of supplications, I could appease God enough to garner his forgiveness or the removal the burden which sent me to the rosary in the first place.
I didn’t understand then what prayer was truly meant to be. These memorized prayers felt more like prescriptions handed out by the clergy, than actual communication with God. Each repetition held me at arms-length from Jesus.
At meals, we said a specific prayer. Sunday mornings were filled with other scripted recitations of the nicene creed, and other confessions. When I’d wake in the night with various nightmares, as I often did, I was instructed to recite the Our Father, and I did without fail–believing that these memorized petitions held some mystical power to protect me from the things that haunted my sleep.
In my younger years, my communication with God was limited to these traditional prayers.
I didn’t read the bible as a child, so I was unfamiliar with the outpouring of prayers that can be found in the Psalms. At that time, our family’s faith could be better described as performance or task completion. I knew of Jesus then, but I didn’t know Him, and I certainly didn’t know how to talk to Him–or even that I could, apart from my memorized liturgy.
When my family joined an evangelical, (and somewhat charismatic) Episcopalian church I was introduced to a new kind of prayer. While Sunday morning worship included the various creeds and confessions we recited during the services, Wednesday night’s prayer service offered something entirely different.
Same church, some of the same people, and yet the experiences couldn’t have been more different.
Wednesday night I witnessed real, honest, unscripted praying. Confessions poured out, but not by way of stoic, stiff-kneed, statuesque figures lined neatly in the pews.
Wednesday night confessions were mumbled through lips pressed into carpet. Wednesday night prayers were bathed in tears or sometimes sung through laughing lips and clapping hands. Wednesday’s prayers were said bent at the rail–for hours. People were not only speaking their prayers, but they were also listening for God to speak. There was no time constraint, no rush to finish before the next service. Wednesday’s prayers came by way of prophesy and tongues. It wasn’t chaos. It was musical, lovely, and sacred.
Learning to pray prayers formed from my own words, out of the contents of my own heart transformed my faith. Listening to the honest prayers of my fellow congregants served as an invitation into something richer than I ever imagined–real conversational prayer with Jesus.
My experiences at Wednesday night’s prayer services taught me that prayer could be both, scripted and unscripted. I learned to embrace the freedom of praying out of the overflow of my own heart–whatever that happened to be at the moment. As my free-prayer life evolved, I learned to treasure the scripted prayers of my childhood. I discovered the depth and beauty of praying through the ancient creeds and how these words connected me not just to God but to the believers who had gone before me.
Learning that prayer can be fluid, messy, joyful and relaxed–a blending of scripture recitation with my own thoughts, saved my faith.
In learning to pray from my own heart, I finally met Jesus.
What saved your faith? Write a blog post answering that question and then visit www.edcyzewski.com to learn how you can join the synchroblog or to read additional posts to celebrate the release of Ed’s book A Christian Survival Guide, which is discounted on Amazon.
*please know that I wrote this post reflecting on how I felt about scripted prayers as a child. As my faith has grown, I have come to deeply love the prayers I recited on auto-pilot as a child. It has been fascinating to see how God used those memorized prayers to help lay the foundation for my faith as an adult. I recite the Lord’s prayer and Nicene creed as part of my weekly worship and I love it that way. 😉