“The following post is written by my friend Karsten—an unashamed man of God whose perspectives on faith and praxis have radically challenged and shaped my own. I pray you are blessed by his words. :)”
Prayer. Such an overused word. We have “prayer meetings” and “prayer groups” and “prayer chains,” we say “I’ll pray for you” to our suffering Christian friends (then we usually don’t remember to). So what is this thing we all say we do, and why do we even bother doing it?
Conversation. I want to redefine for you what prayer is. For starters, it’s not talking. It’s communication. Let me tell you about my trip to In-N-Out.
I had been planning on doing it for awhile, and today I decided to make it happen. I was hungry, and I really wanted IN-N-OUT. I had been practicing conversation with God- talking to Him in my head, listening for responses; I was still convinced that most of what I was hearing was just my own thoughts. Nonetheless, I said to Jesus “Hey Jesus, want to go to In-n-Out with me? I’m buying.” Jesus said He was down. Sweet.
About three months earlier I had gotten fed up with my relationship with God. I was tired of people telling me it was about “relationship” not “religion,” when everything about prayer and worship and church and “quiet time” felt so freaking religious! God of relationship huh? Alright, well prove it! I remember thinking “how do I get to know my friends? Well, I go for walks with them, have conversations with them, go out and get food with them… You know what? That’s what I’ll do! Alright God, I’m going to treat you like you are actually real, like you’re someone I can actually get to know. I’m going to go for a walk with you. I’m going to pretend you’re right next to me (because you are anyway) and I’m going to talk out loud as if I’m talking to you. Then, whatever I hear in my head as a response, I’m going to just go with it as if it’s you. And God, it better be you, because if it isn’t than I’ll probably drive myself crazy by listening to the voices in my head.” About a week after this I went on that first walk. I still think most of what I heard was just me, but I know some of it was Him. Now it was time to take that conversation to the next level.
I walked up to the counter and ordered two burgers: One double double animal style and one cheeseburger (I figured Jesus could handle the smaller burger). I sat down at a two person table, and set the other burger across from me at the table, then I began a conversation. Most of that conversation was something to the tune of “Jesus I feel like a retard right now.”
Jesus would say (in my head, where no one else could hear him) “I know. It’s ok. I like that you’re spending time with me.”
“Thanks Jesus.” Then I noticed an older couple sitting at the other end of the restaurant. They were both probably in their sixties and wore those awkward grandma sweaters with the random animals on them that you hope to receive yourself. As I looked at them I heard God say “prodigal son”. By this point, I knew I was in trouble. God doesn’t usually tell you something like that because he wants you to sit there and do nothing. No, I was going to have to go over there and share what God was saying with these total strangers. I was fearless, and 100% confident that I would walk over there, share what God was speaking, and revival would break out that very moment in In-n-Out! Ok, maybe I was actually terrified of being wrong and trying to talk God out of making me go over there.
I couldn’t talk Him out of it. God brought back to me a quote from a pastor named Shawn Bolz- “If you want to grow in your relationship with God, take the biggest risk possible at your level of faith.” I knew there was no getting out of it if I didn’t want to feel like crap for ignoring God the rest of the night, so I finally decided to get up and go over there. At this point I had “heard” all sorts of stuff from God about this situation. He was a lost son, he was into drugs, he was doing meth, his name was Jeff.
I walked up to them, and a million miles an hour I said “hi, sorry-to-bother-you-but-I-was-wondering-if-I-could-ask-you-something-and-if-I’m-wrong-I’ll-totally-go-away.” Sweater lady, a bit surprised and unsure, said “ok”.
“Do you have a son that you’re not on good terms with?”
The lady’s eyes got big as dollars. Shocked, she said “No…”
No. She said no. If I thought I talked fast before….
I’mreallysorryI’llleaveyoualonenowhaveanicenight” and bam! I was out of there. I Rushed back to my seat, totally embarrassed.
“God, why did you let me do that!? I feel like such an idiot, and now those people are probably staring at me and my extra cheeseburger thinking I’m crazy. Why did you let that happen? I feel like such an idiot…” As I vented, it was as if heaven opened and God’s face began to shine down upon my whole being. I could feel His delight over me like warm sunlight. I knew in that moment how proud my Father really was of me. it was the most profound experience of how proud God is for me that I’ve ever had. To this day I know that it changed my life, and I am so glad I got it wrong that evening.
I was so embarrassed, that I left a few minutes after. I decided to take the cheeseburger, still not sure what I’d do with it since I was on my way to the prayer room and couldn’t let it sit in the car for 3 hours. As I drove, I felt God saying “turn right,” so although my confidence in my ability to hear Him was a bit low at that moment, I figured what the heck. A few traffic lights passed, and I felt Him say “turn left,” so I did. This wasn’t my normal route to church, and I wasn’t sure why He was taking me this way, but I went with it. I felt a “turn right” but it wasn’t quite yet. It was like God was going “closer…closer….NOW!” I turned into the Best Buy parking lot in the nice suburban part of town, and right as I did a homeless man on a bicycle rounded the same corner! I yelled out my window “Hey! Jesus told me to buy an extra cheeseburger and here you are! Do you want it?” He said “sure,” rode over, took the cheeseburger and left. The verse “why you have done to the least of these you have done to me” went through my head, and I heard Jesus clearly say “See! I told you I’d eat my cheeseburger!”
See, prayer was never about getting it right. It was never about getting forgiven, or getting your needs met, or asking for other people’s needs to get met. Prayer is when God lets you feel how proud He is of you at In-n-out. It’s when you and Jesus go give someone a cheeseburger. It’s singing your favorite worship song and knowing God’s Presence is there with you. Prayer is a journey. Prayer is a friendship. When the religious fetters fall off, your prayer life will soar.
Not only is Karsten Kaz a really cool guy—he also just started blogging! Check it out yo! —>Karsten’s Blog