This post was submitted by Lindsay Davis, a member of the RISE Core Team.
Rediscovering prayer and Bible study is bringing about major nostalgia.
When I opened my Bible to read this morning, I remember my early morning readings of old. I remember being immersed in darkness as my roommate slept with only my desk lamp giving enough light for me to read the verses. I remember taking notes in so many journals, pondering on what these stories meant to me and my life as it was and how it would be. I remember the feel of the worn leather of the Bible I received just before I graduated high school, with the little rough patch on the spine that I would rub absent-mindedly as if it were my own little safety blanket. I remember reading over the notes my youth volunteers wrote to me behind the front and back covers, full of love and hope as I prepared for the journey through my collegiate years. I remember how years later, their loving words could brighten up my darkest days.
When I begin to pray, I remember how many old rituals I tried. I remember sitting on the old, uncomfortable couches in the basement of my dorm, praying out loud until someone walked in and glanced awkwardly at me, at which point I would either pause and wait until I was alone again, or turn the other way and continue to pray silently. I remember holding hands with others and praying “popcorn prayers” until our voices blended together into one giant petition. I remember writing the name of every person that came to my mind, from dear friends and family members to someone I heard about on the news, in a prayer journal, and praying over each name so that they would know God’s love and peace for them.
I remember the devotionals that had little snippets of Scripture and a small reading to go with it. I remember words that inspired me, convicted me, challenged me, and gave me hope. I remember wanting to carry the little light around within me forever, only to be disappointed when a moment of chaos, pain, or my own darkness sprung up and snuffed it out.
This is why I’ve been skeptical about prayer for so long. It’s not God’s strength I doubt anymore; it’s my own.
Why pray when my own darkness takes me down so quickly? Why pray when I know I’m just going to let myself be torn down by what others say and do? Why be filled with hope, joy, peace, and love, when it will be gone before the end of the day?
And why read this crazy collection of stories known as the Bible? Why bother trying to unearth the mysteries of these Scriptures? Why spend so much mental energy trying to figure out what I want it to say, or what I think it needs to say? Why do this, when all other people seem to do with it is harm others with their newfound “biblical wisdom”, which was a not-so subtle way to demonize those who disagreed with them? Why should I bother others with my own contributions to the story, when all their contributions seemed to do was hinder others?
And why am I going back to this now? I’ve been afraid of prayer and the Bible for a bit over a year now. What is making me go back after all of this time?
To be honest, I simply missed it.
I missed the peace and affirmation that came from prayer. I missed connecting with God. I missed getting outside of my own head every once in a while to engage with someone else’s pain. I missed the connection to how I used to be, the people that were part of my life, my own steadfastness (or at least its façade). I missed knowing that God was looking out for me, that there was something out there bigger than me that I could tap in to, that the One who created everything, seen and unseen, had my back.
And I missed the old stories. I missed the Creation accounts, the flood narrative, the stories of people like Ruth, David, Mary, Esther, Moses, Jacob, Jesus, and Paul. I missed reading the stories of how the early churches struggled, and how they gave me hope in the midst of our struggles as a Church today.
I missed discussing these stories in small groups. I missed praying out loud together as a community.
I miss the way things used to be.
I do not miss the anti-intellectualism. I do not miss the strict legalism on purity. I do not miss the political agendas, selling Jesus as an “easy button,” drawing lines in the sand, blindness to the suffering of those around us in exchange for the Prosperity Gospel, and all those things that still make me cringe when I think about my faith background.
But I do miss the feeling that I wasn’t alone. I do miss certainty and steadfast faith and hope, even in the darkest of times. I miss the mysticism, the beauty of deep spirituality, and the joy in connecting with God in a deeper way that makes some people think you’re “not with it.”
So I’m coming back. Or I’m dipping my feet back in again. I haven’t quite dived fully in yet, but my toes are in the water, and it is cool and refreshing in the middle of this long journey.