Over the years I’ve taken many personality tests for work. As the executive director of various agencies I always used them as a tool for team-building, as well as coaching and supervision. Without fail, every test has determined that I am distinctly not a “people person.” The results always show that I am task-oriented, rather than people-oriented, which means that before I can focus on anyone around me I have to finish whatever tasks are on my plate for the day. Nothing personal, I just need to cross certain things off my list before I can give you my undivided attention. Otherwise, I get very antsy and start mentally trying to complete the task in my head while you’re talking. And the more tasks accomplished in a day, the better I feel.
I think this is one more explanation for why prayer is so hard for me. It does not feel very productive. I want so much to pray, yet I sit there feeling both uneasy and antsy, waiting for the time when I am done and get back to the work at hand.
So I was thrilled to learn that I was not alone in this sentiment. Lauren Winner, in her beautifully crafted book Girl Meets God, writes the following:
“I have a hard time praying. It feels, usually, like a waste of time. It feels unproductive; my time would be better spent writing a paragraph or reading a book or practicing a conjugation or baking a pie. Sometimes, whole weeks elapse when I hardly bother to pray at all, because prayer is boring; because it feels silly (after all, you look like you’re just sitting there talking to the air, or to yourself, and maybe you are); but above all because it is unproductive. As Jo once put it, “If you spend a day in prayer, you cannot, at the end of the day, point to a pile of toothpaste tubes you made and say, that is what I did today.” Still, there are the weeks when I do pray, the weeks when I trust – or, at least, manage to act like I trust – that prayer does something, even if it is something I cannot see.”
So part of the challenge for me is not just overcoming my dis-ease with prayer, it is also challenging my sense that praying is unproductive. Certainly, if you asked me, I would tell you that praying to God is a very productive thing to do. It is producing a relationship between the person and God. It is producing a change in the pray-er. It is producing results for the people for whom the prayer is being said. Indeed, there is a whole lotta producin’ goin’ on, so to speak.
I can tell you that. But, clearly, I don’t feel that praying is being productive. At least not yet.
I’ll have to work on that. . .