Ricky Bobby and the Trouble with Praying

I find myself uttering this phrase to myself and in conversations often: “All I can do is pray.” It’s like I’m shrugging my shoulders that I am so limited in my ability to ACTUALLY help.

As a fairly standard sample of a human being in middle class America, I am someone who

  • generally obeys the rules
  • pays my taxes on occasion
  • and I would even say I am a God-fearing, Jesus-loving type of person.

Maybe I’d even toot my own horn and tell you that I’ve had what one would call a “prayer life” –  a desire to react to any scenario by acknowledging back to God that He is in charge and that I am okay with that.

I have emerged from prayer with ideas, creativity, care, imagination that I promise, for reals I would never have been able to devise on my own


“Dear Lord Baby Jesus, I want to thank you for this wonderful meal, my two beautiful son’s, Walker and Texas Ranger, and my Red-Hot Smokin’ Wife, Carley” Oh Ricky Bobby…

But lately…

In my real life day-to-day, when I have forgotten the permission slip on the last day it’s due, I do not think of dropping to my knees in prayer or turning off the radio in the car to beseech the heavens on behalf of my forgetfulness.

And I’m not bowing my head and closing my eyes to pray at work when I am clicking open a spreadsheet that already contains the answer I am seeking. I am being serious. Not sarcastic, I mean.  It just does not occur to me.

Ultimately, when “all I can do is pray,” I am saying that I’d rather run the show.  And then when my hands are tied, I might throw a prayer at the situation. No submission there. No giving up of control.

But then I came upon this lovely little gem:

Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire…

Prayer is the burden of a sigh,

The falling of a tear,

The upward glancing of an eye,

When none but God is near.

~James Montgomery~

This poem cuts through so much of the complicated mess and brings me deep, deep relief. Like an unexpected gift on a random weekday.

  • Prayer is the burden of a sigh….my heart rate just went down.
  • Prayer is the falling of a tear…well that sounds do-able.
  • Prayer is the upward glancing of an eye…I’ve got time for that.

So it is with gratitude, a heavy sigh, and a faltering heart that I raise my eyes to the heavens and surrender.

I’m thankful for second chances, (for 80th chances!) to communicate with Jesus. Rick Bobby is ridiculous but his simplicity in prayer could teach us all a thing or two.

Maybe it’s your turn, too, to say “Dear Lord Baby Jesus, I get it..prayer is all I’ve got and it’s everything I’ve got.” What does this look like for you? Could shifting your perspective on prayer change your present circumstance?

Megan’s Take:

The concept of prayer is so fascinating and mysterious to me. I have the propensity to be completely flippant about it. If someone says their great Aunt Sally is in the hospital, my immediate response is, “Oh, I’m so sorry. I’ll be praying for her.” Will I REALLY pray for her? Often I walk away and review my grocery list rather than pray for that person. However, more and more these days I really am TRYING to pray right then and there. My newsfeed is jam packed with things big and little from around the world that I can literally do NOTHING about. My kid comes home from school distraught and anxious. I can’t make it better. I try to lean into that moment with an atmosphere of prayer. I’ve learned over the years that a prayer can take so many forms, but whatever it is, I want my faith to be at the place where I truly believe that this act is actually “doing something.” I can’t see it. I don’t often see the fruit, but I have to believe it’s a holy form of communication to a sovereign, omnipotent and loving God.

I’ve recently read the BEST book on prayer, called “Prayer, the Mightiest Force in the World” by Frank Laubach. He submits that if human beings can create radio waves (this was written in the 1930s) — a form of communication that we CANNOT see, why wouldn’t we believe in prayer as an unseen form of communication with a Holy God. And that was before the world-wide-interweb!! I mean, come on. Favorite quote, “People seldom pray as if they believe that prayer changes the world.” Often I am like you suggest, Christina — believing that I or at least someone much more talented than I can change the world. Let’s debunk that and pray like it’s the only thing we’ve got. Because, quite frankly, it is.

Holly’s Take:

The worst book on prayer I ever read was by Philip Yancey.  I don’t remember the name, but I remember that it created so much confusion around prayer for me.  It has taken so many unanswered prayers coming from the deepest trust in Jesus to realize that I have made a little progress in my doubt of prayer.  That probably sounds backwards  Through everything over the past few years, I somehow believe more and more in the power of prayer, and it’s not because I see results and prayers answered right and left.  I have seen miracles and I have heard crickets.  However,  I see prayer as a much broader category than petitions for life’s circumstances to become easier.  I still have a gazillion questions about prayer, but I do believe it is powerful beyond what I could dream.  I wish each morning, I acted like I believe that.     

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