How Healthy Is Your Prayer “Diet”?

Pr. Justin Kosec wrote this article for “From the Pulpit” in the October 20, 2018, edition of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.

In high school I took this lunch almost every day: Two graham crackers with peanut butter (my kind of sandwich), milk, Doritos, and a package of Hostess snack cakes. I made minor tweaks to the formula—one day Choco-licious rather than Ho-Hos. But generally my lunch included very little variation, very few life-giving nutrients, and very empty plastic wrappers.

Since then, I have learned to care more about lunch. But these days I find myself praying the way I used to eat. I’m often busy, and I feel too unfocused to pray; or I pray with very little variation and very little nutritional value.

Problematically, I find that I can subsist on a diet of junk-food prayers for quite some time. The ill-effects of a poor prayer life often go unnoticed. They just build up in the spirit like plaque in the arteries.

Maybe you, like me, find yourself lightly snacking on meaningless prayers as you walk the dog. Sometimes we stress-pray, successfully avoiding prayer when things are good but gorging during challenging times. Sometimes our prayers look like the diet of someone medically restricted to bland foods: carefully controlled and entirely without joy. And how often have we heard politicians offer “thoughts and prayers”? That’s the prayer-equivalent of cotton candy.

Fortunately, our prayer life does not have to stay the way we do it today.

During a bout with illness, I had to carefully monitor everything I ate. I often felt discouraged as I read labels in the store. Then I began to experiment with spices and cooking techniques. Tried food I never would have eaten before. Bought a nice knife. Now I cook more than ever. It’s a wonderfully far cry from daily Ho-Hos.

We tend to prefer certain prayer “food groups”—like reading our holy scriptures or performing a particular kind of service or praying in one particular place. But variety in prayer is healthful, and experimentation is the spice that keeps a prayer life alive.

Today, revisit your assumptions about prayer. Set aside some time to prepare, or pray somewhere you might never pray. Buy a book with different prayers. Pray with someone—like cooking with someone, it takes coordination but yields excellent results. Pray for someone—like cooking for them, it makes you love them differently. Spice up your prayers, and you might even discover new flavor in an otherwise tasteless relationship with God.

Pastor Justin KosecPr. Justin Kosec
Pastor for Outreach and Communication