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Friday, October 7, 2011

Why Prayer is Hard

by Dustin (bio)

When I teach effective communication to college students I often use an activity called "Blind Drawing." Two individuals (Person A and Person B) sit back to back. Person A describes a series of shapes on a sheet of paper to Person B, who draws the shapes on a blank sheet as he or she interprets them. Person B cannot ask questions or turn around. The individuals then compare their papers only to discover how different the shapes look in size and arrangement. During a second round of drawing, the individuals are allowed to face one another, engage in two-way dialogue, and use facial expressions, hand movements, and voice tone to emphasize certain characteristics of the shapes. Without fail, the two drawings end up almost identical. Voila! The power of eye-contact, two-way communication, and nonverbals.

I'll then teach the students that some psychological experiments report 93% of communication is nonverbal. In other words, asking someone on a date via text is lame and delegating tasks to a member of your student organization via Facebook is ineffective. While the validity of the experiments that led to this conclusion have been questioned, the fact remains that nonverbals and two-way communication have a profound effect on our interactions. The most effective communication by far occurs between two coherent and engaged individuals.

Recently, I was kneeling by my bed rambling through a prayer and on the verge of blacking out due to exhaustion when a thought came to me: Prayer is sometimes difficult for the aforementioned reason -- it is the ultimate one-way, blind communication. I sometimes feel like Person A, describing my day, ad-libbing a few ideas, and requesting blessings from Someone I can't see, hear, or receive direct, in-the-moment, verbal feedback from. I can't see His face or hear His voice tone. Of course I can feel the Holy Ghost, which can be even more comforting and powerful than any human-to-human interaction. But my level of holiness isn't at the necessary levels to receive these feelings on a nightly basis. Oftentimes, I'm lucky to stay conscious through the entire prayer.

This is why prayer can be hard. But I also think it was meant to be this way. Although a seemingly ineffective form of communication, prayer is actually the ultimate symbol of faith. Sure, my prayers could be more meaningful and more consistent (and more coherent). But by even kneeling on the ground and monologuing to an unseen Being I am expressing my faith that Someone is on the other end of my prayers, several universes away, waiting to listen to me, bless me, and show forth His love to me. And to me that is more meaningful than any two-way dialogue.

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