We have a family of 8, and mealtimes can get a little crazy. It starts with our 2 year old throwing a fit because she wants to be the one to pray. We try to share our “Highs” and “Lows” the best we can with everyone talking, food being passed, or the toddler screaming for chocolate chips. Someone’s “Low ” for the day is inevitably that “So and So is an ogre” or “So and so is stinky.”
There are usually fights, but also laughter, and somehow amid the chaos hopefully some connection happens. We wouldn’t trade it for the world. Actually sometimes we do trade it for “Everyone for themselves” dinners or a dinner in front of the TV, but those times are rare.
Paul Miller, in his book, A Praying Life, describes our conversation with God in prayer as similar to joining God for dinner. In fact Christ’s invitation to us in Revelation 3:20, is a dinner invitation:
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” –Jesus
If prayer is conversation with God, then how do I get better at conversation? Family mealtime is crazy because of what everyone brings to the table. This hit me as I read Chapter 2 of MIller’s book this week. At mealtime, we focus on conversation with each other to get to know each other. But we can’t really get to know each other just over dinner. We need to get to know each other throughout the day, and then mealtime is a great time to ask about how something went, or how someone is processing something.
In other words, our mealtime will only be as strong as our relationships outside of mealtime are. Dinner time is a great time to talk about things as a family, but we also need to work on our relationships before coming to the table.
I often try to get better at prayer as an isolated spiritual discipline (Why can’t I pray more? Why am I so distracted in prayer? Why can’t I remember to pray?) rather than getting more intimate with God outside of my attempts to pray, so that my prayer life will be more real and deep and intimate.
As I get to know God more, I will realize His power and my need. I will understand more of my sin and His holiness. I will understand my utter dependence on Him. That will drive me to prayer. And through prayer, I will get to know and trust Him more. Prayer is not an isolated spiritual discipline. It is the fruit of a submitted, deep, intimate relationship with the Father even outside of our prayer times..
My quest for a better prayer life simply focuses on me. My quest for simply having a quiet and meaningful dinner conversation only focuses on dinner and not my relationships with my family outside of us coming together. What I really want is not a quiet dinner table. But to have a centeredness of my spirit that I can still love and get to know everyone at the table even amid the crazy. A warm relationship AWAY from the table will lead to warm times AT the table which will fuel our depth and desire to be at the table together.
Yes, I want to get better at prayer. But that will only come as I know God better. And knowing God better will drive me to talk with Him in prayer as I would talk with friends and family at dinner.
Father, thank you for inviting me to the table of prayer. Help me to know You, and to know myself so well, that I can’t help but be driven to constant prayer. And in our times of prayer together, Father, please build our relationship, and deepen my need for you. Amen