Why is it weird to pray outside of church?
Because we’ve made it weird.
I admit that I’m not one to always pray at a restaurant before a meal. But we do pray around our dining table at home and before bed and on the way to school. I try to normalize it for our family to pray. We try to pray anytime we see a wreck or an ambulance drive by. And I’ve been trying to get better about stopping to pray right then and there whenever someone asks me to pray for someone or something.
The problem is that we compartmentalize our lives too much. We have our prayer life, our church life, school life, sports life, family life, work life, social life. There is a place for everything and everything in its place. We take God out of his box when we go to church, but then we shelve him when it’s time for school or the game.
The thing is, God doesn’t want your “spiritual life.” He wants your life. All of it. The whole thing.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
I love the way Eugene Peterson words this passage in The Message:
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
God wants your whole life. Jesus is King over every part of our lives.
The thing about prayer, specifically, is that we don’t have to stop, close our eyes, fold our hands, and bow our heads. Prayer is a way of living in constant contact and communication with God. That’s why Paul can say,
Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, The Message)
Pray all the time. Never stop praying. Pray without ceasing. How can we do that if we have to close our eyes and bow our heads? Prayer is simply keeping near to God throughout our day.
Every breath can be a prayer of thanks. Every ache and pain can be a prayer for healing and strength. Every joy can be a prayer of praise. Every laughter, every step, every meal can be a prayer.
I appreciate the words of a couple songs that I will close with.
In Your love I find release
A haven from my unbelief
Take my life and let me be
A living prayer my God to Thee
(“A Living Prayer” by Allison Kraus)
May my steps be worship
May my thoughts be praise
May my words bring honor to Your name
Praying outside of church is only weird if we’ve made it weird. Don’t make it weird. Make it your life, part of who you are, all day every day.