How to Find Prayer Again (or realize God has already found you)

Margaret —  June 6, 2014 — 64 Comments

Let me introduce you to my friend, Micha. Micha (pronounced "MY-cah") Boyett is a blogger, writer, and sometimes poet. She shares her story of rediscovering the simplicity of prayer in her recently released memoir Found: A Story Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer. Boyett and her husband live in San Francisco with their two boys. Follow Micha on Facebook and Twitter.

Over the course of the next 6 weeks, I've invited friends to share their words in this space as we explore the mysteries of prayer during the Summer Bible Study.

Prayer is an invitation to lift our souls to the God-Already-Here. by Micha Boyett

As a girl, I learned to thrive in my church culture. I was sweet, a hard worker, the sort of second grader the grown-ups asked to pray out loud. I was the kid who racked up the most gold stars on the class chart.

I knew the rules for pleasing God.

And though I would never have admitted it, as an adult I lived by the same rules. God was the Ultimate Grown Up and I longed for the assurance that God really loved me, that God was proud of me. Despite my belief in grace, I convinced myself that I could earn a spot among God’s favorites.

Though much of my life of faith was “impressive” (I went into full-time ministry and was a natural leader), I always struggled to pray. I knew what prayer was supposed to look like but I could never seem to live up to my own rules. I’d fall asleep or fail to make it through my gigantic lists of prayer requests. I’d sit before God and struggle to know what to say. I pushed myself to do better.

My time in prayer felt as frantic as the rest of my life.

Most of us reach a point when our ability to achieve collapses underneath the weight of our own frailties. I had a baby and suddenly the lack of sleep and demands of my child undid my ability to strive. The demands of motherhood didn’t crush my wobbly faith; it simply revealed how performance-driven my faith had always been.

I couldn’t try to make God like me any longer. I was exhausted.

When my son was 18 months old, I packed a duffel bag, kissed my husband on the lips, and drove south, alone, toward a Benedictine monastery full of balding, mustached dudes in black robes. By that point, I’d recognized that my love for God was all tangled up in fear—fear that I wasn’t enough, fear that my life was ordinary, fear that my faith was too flimsy to matter in this world. I needed to throw out all the old rules for prayer. I needed to believe that God could love me, with or without my impressive feats of faith.

I went to the monastery because I’d read (in a book by Kathleen Norris) that the Benedictines believe God has actually given us enough time in each day for work and study and rest and prayer. At that point in my life, my mantra was There’s not enough time! I knew something needed to change. I needed to begin to believe in God’s Enough. I longed for prayer to come from a place of love and joy, instead of franticness and fear.

I sat in the old stone chapel for two days and listened to the monks chant the Psalms. I felt they were praying the words for me. And eventually I joined them. I prayed the Psalms as they were, with all their grit and doubt and anger. And I realized God was not afraid of my questions. God was not undone by my weak faith.

In the honesty and desperation of the Psalms, in my ordinary, unimpressive mothering life, I learned to pray again.

The gift of losing prayer has been the revelation that knowing God never depended on me in the first place. All that time when I was striving to undo my failures, to make myself fit for God, God was finding me. I was being found. Maybe prayer is much deeper, and simpler, and richer than I ever imagined. And maybe joy is never found in frantic striving, but in the gentle nearness of God. I’m learning how to “lift up my soul” as Psalm 25 says. And that’s what prayer is, after all. Not a checklist. Not a regimen. Not even a requirement.

It is an invitation to lift our souls to the God-Already-Here.

***

51zm3Fd25nL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_-3This week, we're giving away 3 copies of Found by Micha Boyett.

Embracing a new way to pray and an old way to God.

Found is a story of nourishment for anyone who hungers for rich spirituality and has come up empty. It’s a story for anyone who is trying to reconcile great big dreams with the ordinariness of their days. It’s a story of discovering divine kindness and affection in the most mundane moments of life.

With brilliant and moving prose, Micha Boyett invites us on a journey to discover the richness in the everyday—and it changes everything.

(RSS Subscribers, click here to view video.)

To win, leave a comment on the original blog post at MargaretFeinberg.com. The three winners will be selected and announced on Friday.

Congratulations to the winners: Lindsay Boynton, Chelsea, Sonya

How has your prayer life changed over the last several years? What was the most prayer-altering moment in your life?

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64 responses to How to Find Prayer Again (or realize God has already found you)

  1. I am so in need of this stillness…

  2. I am amazed at how much I can relate to this post!!

  3. Tara Lantieri June 6, 2014 at 4:39 am

    Ugh I just typed out a long revealing, heart wrenching response and some how it disappeared! I guess it was meant for just The Lord and me…
    I’m Learning that sometimes it’s good to just share things with Him…THAT is a thriving, personal, intimate relationship with Him. If your only sharing with Him, His answer is the only one you can be listening for, right??

  4. I have also found that when I stop making myself feel guilty for not doing it or for doing it the “wrong way” AND I am in His Word regularly, it is much easier to feel his nearness and to hear Him speak. Part of hearing Him speak (at least in my mind) is recognizing when He answers prayer. After all, many times actions speak louder than words.

    • Yes, Sonya. There is such a difference when you stop living in guilt when it comes to prayer. I’ve found so much freedom in offering God what I have today. Sometimes it’s matches up with my old rules and sometimes it doesn’t, but I can rest in the reality that prayer is not performance, it is nearness to the Spirit. That’s such a freeing thought!

    • Congratulations, Sonya! You’ve been selected as a winner! Please send your mailing address to carrie@margaretfeinberg.com.

  5. Wow Margaret! Thanks for introducing us to Micah Boyett. What I’ve read here is wonderful. Living in a friendship-relationship with the Father is His desire… breaking down the complexity of a “relationship with God” that each of us create. There is freedom and peace in answering the, “invitation to lift our souls to the God-already-here.” And knowing He is really here.

  6. thank you for this – i so needed it today!

  7. Lindsay Boynton June 6, 2014 at 8:50 am

    Such a good read! “I longed for prayer to come from a place of love and joy, instead of franticness and fear.” Would love to read Micah’s book :)

  8. I’ve learned over the years that I can pray anywhere, at anytime, and that my prayers, no matter how simple or complex, are still important to God.

    The most prayer altering time in my life happened when my daughter, Julie was only 4 years old. My next door neighbor and I were accountability partners in the study, “Experiencing God”. We were keeping prayer journals and since Jules was too young for school she would sometimes sit at the table with us. As we would voice our prayer requests prior to praying, we asked her what she would like to ask God. Of course the answer was simple: “I want a doll.” The following day as we were reviewing our requests from the previous day, my neighbor were both shocked. Why? Because Julie was sitting in the living room playing with her new doll she won from Walmart in a coloring contest the previous afternoon.

    My question was, “why were we shocked?” Julie prayed with the heart of a child. She believed and her prayer was answered. What a lesson for a young mom!

    I think we miss opportunities to praise God for His blessings when we don’t track our requests. This has shown me the purpose of a prayer journal.

    Just as a side note – I have known Micah since 1997 when she and my oldest daughter, Jamie met and became friends in college. I love Micah and her sweet family. Micah has the sweetest spirit!

  9. My prayer altering moment was when I turned 40 I was Baptized and I took my commitment seriously. But recently I felt God was telling me something but I did not like what he was saying. I asked in my prayers for him to just say it one more time. Even though the changes make me sad I am good with them. I just can not wait to see what his next plan is for me!
    Micah book looks great!!

  10. Several years ago I discovered how altering praying through the Psalms can be. It’s still my favorite method of prayer, my “comfort food” of prayer, if you will. There is freedom there, no pressure. The verses articulate the deepest fears & insecurities, hopes & praises of my heart.

  11. Thank you for this post. I would love to read Micha Boyett’s book!

  12. I too write about prayer at Under the Cover of Prayer. Loved your post – and yes finding God in the stillness – relating to Him, knowing how He is calling us to love Him – following Jesus. A whole new way of looking at life.
    I followed you on Twitter.
    Blessings,
    Janis

  13. Isn’t it always when our lives are upside down that our God is SO powerful! Right now I am a few weeks from turning 50, I’ve changed jobs twice since March (after being employed by the same company for 24 years), and uprooted my family. Every single day during these especially scary times of taking leaps of faith God ministers to me through song, nature, or encouraging words from friends and family…and especially through your blogs Margaret.
    One grateful lady in Roanoke, VA

    • Yes, Mary Lu. There is something about those times of being uprooted when we’re most able to notice God’s grace at work around us. So glad to hear you’re experiencing God, even in the midst of all these changes.

  14. Bonnie Bellis June 6, 2014 at 11:20 am

    So enjoy Micha’s open and sincere spirit. Her insight and approach gives us A-types the permission to slow down and throw off the worldly expectations. Reading Micha is like walking down a long winding path of solitude and Jesus. Looking forward to reading Found ♡

  15. My experience with praying began as a child. My mother grew up in church with her father being a minister in a small town in Arkansas. So it was natural that we did also. We went to Sunday School and church every Sunday(which I dreaded because had to wear a dress). I remember being young and antsy but in Sunday School, I learned to listen. The young teacher taught us on our level and it fascinated me when she showed us the picture of Jesus with the children climbing all over Him and He was happy. I could relate to this picture. You see, I was considered the “black sheep” of the family and got in trouble every day(whether I actually did wrong or not). At one time I remember my mother calling me “evil”. This broke my heart because I loved(still do)my mother SO much that I actually went to sleep hoping I would wake up and look like her and then she would love me back. Well, anyway, my mother and my father did not like me and my siblings would copy the things they said…but I had my bravado of hiding my feelings and being “tough” like it did not bother me. When I was alone, I was afraid because I did not want to go to “the devil”. After seeing this picture of Jesus, I remembered it like a photograph. When I was alone, I figured out that Jesus loved the little children and I was a child so Jesus must love me and if Jesus loved me, I could not be evil and there had to be some good in me. I was 9-10 years old. I would lay in bed before going to sleep and talk to Him and I began to feel safer and loved and wanted by Jesus. When I got yelled at or punished, I would be sent to be alone and I would say outloud to myself that “Jesus loves me!” and this comforted me. I did not think of talking to Him as praying but simply as talking to the only One who loved and valued me. This was the beginning of MANY life-altering events in my life with many not being good at all but at those times, I stop, get alone and remember what the little girl-me discovered and I feel that same safety that NO ONE on this earth can make me feel…I am sorry for this long message and I don’t speak much of this because I really love and miss my mother and I don’t want to demean or betray her memory. Life is strange in good and bad ways but…God is waiting…patiently…for us…and I am SO glad!

  16. Be still and know that I am God is a concept that I continue to struggle with. Can a I NOT know God in the activity of life? Or is this stillness we read about only a stillness of the heart? Can a I still be bodily active (working in my yard, riding my bike) and have a stillness in my soul that allows me to connect with God? Questions, questions and more questions yet always open to answers.

    • Cindi, I’m a question asker too! Those are actually the same ones I struggle with in the book. Can I have a meaningful spiritual life when it is never quiet in my house full of wild kids? What does it look like to connect with God in the daily, ordinary parts of life? Is it possible? I really think it is. If you get the chance to read Found, I’d love to know if it helps your questions.

  17. Faith SImsick June 6, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    Love this post and can so relate to Micha’s revelation and relief. The most prayerful altering moment in my life thus far was the day my husband and I completely surrendered our son’s life and addicitions and treatments to God.

    This was Christmas Eve, 2010 and we received a call that they could no longer offer him treatmenent at the charitably funded center he had been placed in. They wanted to know when we would be coming to pick him up. We simply did not have the resources to send him for continued treatment that he would so greatly benefit from and desired. Nor did we have the emotional strength to bring him to our home. My husband and I literally dropped to our knees, thanked God for the perfect plan He had for our son and for us and surrendered – his care, our plans, our expectations and more – totally trusting Him to provide all of us whatever He knew we needed.

    And wow, God is soooo faithful! When we returned from a Christmas eve service, we received a phone call telling us that an anonymous donor had provided for our son’s continous care at another facility and they would be transporting him there that very evening! He remained there for inpatient care for another 60 days and transitional care for months after. Praise God that we are now preparing to celebrate his upcoming wedding in July and his 4 year clean and sober anniversary in November!!!!

    This prayer moment was such a defining moment in all of our faith walk, in our marriage and has provided such beautiful testimony of God’s faithfullness and provision to countless others. Honest, sincere, gut wrenching and joyful prayer is NOW the true language of my heart.

  18. My prayer life as morphed over the years. At times it was the most important thing for me. At other times, I put it on the back burner. But God has always been in my prayer closet waiting patiently for me to join Him. He found me very recently as I sought help for depression and anxiety at The Center – A Place of Hope. I truly found Him there too as I worked through issues of life and came home believing God has been there all along. This sounds like a great book. I hope I win! Bless you Micha for being couragous enough to share your story and to hold the hand of others who need to understand God’s plan for their prayer life. I pray blessings on the book’s release.

  19. “Joy…is…found in the gentle nearness of God” – such a true and profound statement!

  20. I think I have put the performance issue to rest and then it crops up again! Great post. Felt grace and peace wash over me.

  21. Ann Phillips Thompson June 6, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    Interesting and thought-provoking article.

  22. Cindy Caldwell June 6, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    I used to have such faith…faith that allowed childbirth at home, that manifested great things for my company, and that felt empowering until it didn’t. Suddenly I was exhausted from having to keep my thoughts “right”…because if I didn’t, everything bad that happened was my fault…but I just couldn’t do it anymore. Then I tried 2 different seminaries and found out that so many of my belief systems about God, were just fallacy. And so I am getting a PhD in mythology, which makes far more sense to me than any religion. Except for prayer. I’m not sure about prayer because the old belief system said I had to pray TO somebody or something, and I don’t believe in those concepts any more. So, I enjoy your blog, your process, and honor your spiritual practice, even if I don’t believe in your God. Would your book help my process?

    • Cindy, I wrote the book hoping so much that anyone–wherever they are in their faith journey–would be able to read it and connect with it, even if some of our beliefs are different. I’ve heard from a few different people–a Jewish woman, an agnostic, a spiritual seeker–who were each able to connect with the story, even if they didn’t hold my belief in Jesus. I hope the same for you. Thanks for asking.

  23. I am so ready to read this book and harvest all its wisdom!!

  24. Prayer is the bridge between earth and heaven. We can trust God to hear us and also provide beyond what we ask or think. There is nothing our Father would not deny us, except that He knows what is best and gives us only what can transform us into the image of His Son. I am so thankful that He hears us. On the other hand, we need to listen for His voice to realize what and where He has for our lives each day. I look forward to reading this book by Micah that will further stretch my vision on how to prayer and communicate with my Abba Father.

  25. Wow, oh WOW! I so needed that! I struggle with my prayer life…Am I doing it right? Am I doing it enough? Am I being redundant? Two years ago God healed me of over 40 years of mental & emotional abuse, depression and intimidation. Since then, my mind is so clear and I have learned so much. I even write about my experience, trying to give others hope andencouragement. Yet, I still struggle with prayer. I know how to access the Lord, and I know the presence of the Holy Spirit…yet I still struggle with whether or not I’m doing it right. Could it be that I only need to talk to Him like I am here? Thanks for your post!

  26. I am constantly in prayer, 24 hours a day. Ya I know you might be thinking that it is not possible, but what is prayer? To me it is talking to God. I get up around 5:30-6am every morning, yes even on the days I don’t work, and the first thing I say, “Good morning Jesus” and I usually say this before I open my eyes. I then concentrate on Jesus for two or so hours by reading the bible or praying before I go to work at 8.
    Once I get to work, I open, and get inside, I go to my desk and sit down and I invite Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit to join me. The Bible says that they cannot be in a place that is not Holy, so I pray for holiness because I literally CANNOT do nothing without Jesus.
    I am always talking to Jesus thru-out the day, especially when I have a problem and when I get home, I go back to studying the Bible and talking again once to Jesus.
    Before I go sleep, I am praying for forgiveness, even if I have done no wrong, I still ask for forgiveness and ask for Jesus to show me anything in my life that I need to work on to get right, then I ask Jesus to put me to sleep and wake me if I have dreams that are not of God so I can rebuke myself or Satan.
    So yes, my prayer habit has changed and the more I pray or talk to Jesus the more happy, joyous and excited I am to be his servant.

  27. How I long to pray prayers that reach God’s heart. Learning from someone else’s personal experience of discovering the truths that our Father has ultimately revealved to her is powerful in itself. I would love to be blessed with a copy of “Found”. Blessings to you.

  28. Powerful post. Prayer has been tough for me and it was only a few weeks ago I rediscovered John Michael Talbots music, much of which is from Psalms. Sharing that benedictines believe there is time for everything is a revelation to me. Sometihng to ponder. Thanks for your open heart. Blessings to you.

  29. Melinda Bensler June 6, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    A new world of prayer opened up for me a number of years ago when I found an old devotional from the 70s. Every day there were a number of bible verses that were put together to speak to certain topics. I learned to pray those verses. I made them mine and prayed them for my family, friends and circumstances. I jotted notes in the margins about what God was saying and doing as a result of those prayers. But when I started in on the fourth year, it was suddenly old. It wasn’t exciting or life-giving anymore. I’ve been on a search since then for something that will give me the structure of those pages. I feel like I’m stuck. I still pray scripture but it’s random. It’s not that I don’t feel God’s presence but I long to once again have powerful interaction with Him.

  30. This book looks like just the thing I need at just the time I need it! So exciting! Thank you!

  31. I have never had someone explain what I have been experiencing over the past few years so well. But truly my ability to achieve has been overcome by my frailties. So, so true. Desiring to achieve is so entrenched in who I am that it is hard to let it go in regards to God. He’s working on me.

  32. I find myself praying a random times during the day. When I try to force myself to have a prayer time, that’s what it turns out to be forced. My biggest prayer is to hone in on the Holy Spirit so I am responsive to that littlest nudge in my spirit and not need a 76 trombone parade to get my attention.

  33. “Found” – what an awesome testament of the greatness of God’s unending love!

    I observed, as from a distance, a growing hollowness; and soon recognized that it was my soul needing restoration. Contemplating how I’d reached such a critical state, I saw that I was pouring out much in the busyness of ministry, family and life. Yet, I hadn’t been properly adjusting upward for the refilling I needed personally at this level. The Holy Spirit was gently calling for me to allow Him to “restore my soul.” Of course, the guilt of missing it crept in – not a comfortable place at all. But God Himself assured me that He had committed Himself to me – what a freeing refreshment.

    Continued blessings to you, Leif and Hershey, Margaret. Abundant joy and grace to the readers of Micha’s book – may we all permit ourselves to be “Found.”

  34. This post is what I needed today. My heart always feels so swamped with worry and fear, and I constantly struggle with how to present my burdens to Him. I can easily tell my friends how to approach God, but whenever I sit quietly before Him, I clam up and don’t know what to say. I’m very intrigued by Micha’s words and I think I could learn from the lessons God taught her. Thank you!

  35. There have been so many times in my life that I have longed for a deeper and more meaningful prayer life. I am so going to have to read Micah’s book!

  36. Barbara Lanning June 10, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    Thank you for your words….. much needed.

  37. I’ve had a hard time keeping a consistent prayer schedule…Just recently I started a prayer journal and that’s helping…I don’t like how far away I feel from God when I don’t pray.

  38. God has actually given us enough time in each day for work and study and rest and prayer. – Love this! And amidst the chaos of a life with kids and ministry, too many to-dos get in the way of my prayer life, yet God has given us enough time for all of it..
    PS thanks for telling us the pronunciation of her name. I would’ve butchered it otherwise. Not that it matters because you can’t hear my mind when I read… But ya know ;)

  39. Natalie Baumann June 10, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    My prayer life has been almost non-existent lately. I have often found myself just being still in His presence and waiting and yearning to hear Him speak to me once again. I desperately want to really know God, but I feel stuck and don’t really know how to search for Him.

  40. Living loved…really knowing how much I am loved has transformed all from fear to love…not driven but lead… This came through a painful fellowship tearing…. We loss friends …my sister and her family…my husband and I were totally isolated….it was through this lonely place…He transformed my relationship from fear to love…where He became my friend…the lover of my soul. I would. to like to go through this again….but I would not change what I found in Him.

  41. Such a beautiful confessional and one I relate to on a deep and gritty level. Really looking forward to reading your book!

  42. “My time in prayer felt as frantic as the rest of my life.”….these words resonated in my soul today! I am so often discouraged by not spending as much time as “I think” I should in prayer or praying like “I think” I should. This would often leave me defeated and frantic in all areas of my life. The Lord is teaching me prayer is simply being with and talking to Him, no prerequisites.

  43. I havent “had time” to post on the blog, but I am doing the study, and I bought Micahs book too. I am getting so much from this, and boy did I need it. Thank you Jesus, thank you Margaret, and Micah too.

  44. Beautiful entry. Can’t wait to read more.

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