One of my favorite things about being an author is getting to travel around the country and talk about how we can pray for the people we love. And one of the people I love just happened to be able to join me earlier this month at an event in Greenwich, Connecticut…
Our daughter Virginia thought she was just there to listen, but when we got to the Q&A part of the evening, someone in the crowd had a question for her. “How did you feel,” the woman wondered, “about growing up with a mother who prayed?”
Never one to shy away from an honest question, Virginia got up and grabbed hold of the mic.
“I didn’t like it,” she said.
I held my breath. This could go any number of ways.
“For starters,” Virginia said, “Mom was always praying that if we did anything wrong, we’d get caught. And we were always getting caught.
“And,” she continued, “She made us pray all the time. Like, if we were going to the mall, we’d pray about what we had to buy. And we’d ask God for a parking space. Or to give us energy, if we felt tired. It all just felt like…a lot.”
I could feel the crowd tensing up. I knew what they were thinking. They’d been tracking with me during my talk (when I’d covered things like asking God to provide self-control in our children, protection for our teens, and help for our older kids as they battled addictions, marriage break-ups, and other grown-up issues), but this was new ground. Shopping trips? Parking places? Energy levels? Were those really the sort of details we should be bugging God with? Doesn’t he have more important things on his mind?
Happily, Virginia wasn’t quite finished.
“It seemed strange, at the time,” she said. “Looking back, though, I think it was really good for us to hear, and be part of, prayers about everyday things. It made talking to God so much more real and relational, rather than something that we thought of as scary, complicated, or just plain hard to do.”
I exhaled, wiped an invisible bead of sweat from my brow, and thanked Virginia for her candor.
Is it okay to pray about life’s little stuff?
Later that week, though, I started to wonder. Is it okay to talk to God about life’s little stuff? Like, I would never want my familiarity with him to take away from his holiness, from the fact that he is actually God. And if I did not get a primo parking spot, I hoped he knew that I’d be okay. It wouldn’t derail my faith; rather, I would probably reason that God knew I needed the walk–and maybe even that I needed to thank him for the fact that I could walk.
Still though, the question lingered. I had a professor in college who admonished me for “talking a lot, but never saying anything.” I didn’t want God to see me in the same light, as though my prayers made him think of a small yappy dog.
And then, as if on cue, the doorbell rang. It was the Amazon guy, bringing me a new book:
(Sidebar: If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I have a bit of a #hoardingsituation going on when it comes to books about prayer…
…that pic is only about half of my stash.)
Anyhow, I opened How to Pray and (not making this up) I read this:
“One of the greatest theological questions of our time in the realm of petitionary prayer appears to be whether we should ask God for parking spaces.”
Seriously? Was Pete Greig – co-founder of the 24-7 Prayer Movement – really going to write about parking spaces? He was!
“It seems to me,” Greig went on, “that the answer is clear: Yes, we should indeed ask God to give us parking spots. Why? Because when we pray for places to park, we become the kind of people who worship God for a patch of concrete outside a supermarket on a rainy Saturday in January.”
Ahhhh. I loved that. I felt like Greig, a self-described “Scruffy Brit,” understood my motivation. In asking God for a parking place, it wasn’t that I felt entitled to one, or that I could “claim it” in prayer or whatever. Rather, my request was born more out of relationship, out of an understanding that every good gift–the big stuff and the small–is, as James said, “from above.”
I read on.
Living with “Greater Gratitude”
“When you pray about the small things in life,” Greig said, “you get to live with greater gratitude. If you only ever pray about big, ugly, gnarly problems that seem onerous and serious enough to warrant divine intervention, you will only very occasionally experience miracles. But when your learn to pray about trivia…you start to notice how many minor miracles are scattered around in the course of an average day.
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
I mean, literally: I couldn’t. Every single chapter in Greig’s book features wiser, kinder, and more well-informed insights on prayer than anything I’ve ever written. I don’t even have to pray about putting this one in the stockings, this year. It’s such a better Christmas morning surprise than the posture brace. (Which, if you’re new to this blog, explains why Yours Truly really does need to pray about shopping. God had no part in choosing that particular gift.)
And honestly? You’re gonna want a copy of How to Pray for yourself. Because it’s that time of year, and when you come out of the store loaded down with a cart full turkey, potatoes, and Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce in a Can, you’re either gonna want that sweet parking spot, or you’ll want the reminder to be grateful that you have a car in the first place.
Even if it is parked a half-mile away. 🙂
Teach us how to pray, and to live with greater gratitude. May we rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
P.S. I only recommend books that I really do love, and if you purchase via the link in this blog, I get a tiny credit from Amazon. Which I will most likely use to purchase more books about prayer.
Either that, or something for my kids that is better than this: