Zion & Prayer
ZION & PRAYER
My struggle with prayer and how God met me in the valley.
These pictures are of mountains, but I want to tell a story about my struggle with doubt and prayer. It was way more of a valley experience than a mountain top one.
About a year or so ago, I went through a period of pretty intense doubt. I don’t think I ever got to the point where I outright stopped believing in God, but everything else was up for grabs. I felt like my foundation got taken out from under me. I was trying to follow God and do the things I had done my whole life, but the actions felt empty. This was most true when it came to prayer.
I was born into a faithful Christian household where prayer was central to the home. I grew up praying, and praying a lot. I spent my youth learning the language of prayer, and as a high schooler could string together a lot of the right words to make my prayers sound like the prayers of a mature, penitent, faithful follower of Christ.
But the truth was, so much of my faith was all head and no heart. I learned the language of prayer before I acquired a heart of prayer. I knew so much about God. I could rattle off theological positions and debate scripture and do the things that I thought faithful men were supposed to do. From the outside, I probably seemed like a solid (albeit probably very prideful) Christian.
The house that I had built came crumbling down as doubt crept in. I hadn’t based my faith on a relationship with God, I had based my faith on my certainty that what I knew about God was true. And what do you have left when you are no longer certain? When you’re asking yourself:
“WHAT DO THESE WORDS I PRAY SO CONFIDENTLY EVEN MEAN?"
“DOES GOD HEAR MY PRAYERS?”
“DO MY PRAYERS REALLY DO ANYTHING?"
“WHAT IS THE POINT OF PRAYER?”
I was left with nothing.
No answers. Only questions. And yet God faithfully met me in that place.
I would lay awake at night, processing with my wife Erica about these heavy issues. I had to slowly break down all the head knowledge I had acquired over the years and start to pray like a child again. I had to pray the simplest prayers that I could allow myself to believe. I had to learn to talk to God like a friend, and not like a dispenser of knowledge. I had to learn to journal, and to allow myself the room to not have the answers to big questions. I was no longer certain and confident about all of the answers to the big issues of prayer, but that uncertainty allowed a relationship to grow that had never been there before. Doubt led to trust. Trust led to conversation. Conversation rebuilt a prayer life.
And so fast forward to June of 2019. I had a trip planned to Zion National Park. I had planned on this trip primarily being about me doing photography in national parks and trying to do some strategic business planning. I had the thought that I wanted to spend some time praying for people. I put out a call for people to send me prayer requests and I would pray for them while I was hiking.
What was a brief thought on a run became the most beautiful part about my trip. Getting to walk in nature and talk to God and lift up other people to a God who loves and cares and hears brought me to tears.
Because a year ago, I wasn’t really sure if God loved, or cared, or heard. And I had this incredible realization that the way that I was connecting with God in this national park had felt like an impossible, foreign reality for me a year ago.
God has faithfully loved me through my doubt, and cared for me as I wandered, and heard as I asked the hard questions of faith. The God who created the mountains I was walking through created me, and he hears me every step of the way as I walk with him.
I come out of the other side of this struggle not as some perfect sinless prayer warrior who will never have a doubt again. Not even close. More, I come out as someone willing to walk hand in hand with doubt as one walks with a friend. Because doubt tore down the empty faith I had and God rebuilt a new one.
I pray it won’t be the last time that happens.