Steve visits an ashram in Pondicherry, and his prayer life changed.
I had gone to the ashram skeptical, but wanting to experience the part of a devoted follower, praying to the part of God that is worshiped in this place, and hoping for something in return; a revelation from that place. Part of my concentration was praying through each item from my list: my brother Rod who is dying of liver cancer, for my children, for Suzanne and our marriage, and a few other situations that have since dropped off my prayer radar. My list is usually a list of 3-5, and since I did not know how much time Sanjay had allotted for concentration on this part of the tour, the prayer request flew by historical markers on an interstate highway.
Highway speed prayers should have felt unfamiliar, but looking back on it; I realize I had been praying that style for some time; a habit of setting the cruise control and praying from a time when I felt busy. Now I was less busy, but my prayers had not downshifted; they were still fast food prayers of obligation.
Read about the Ashram in Praying to the part of you that is worshiped.
Walking away from the ashram, I casually ask one of the young people on the tour if God had revealed anything. While thinking about her answer, she asked:
“What did God reveal to you, Steve?”
I was not begging to be asked, and didn't even know there was a revelation waiting for me until she asked. When God wants to reveal something to me, it usually is not complicated, or complex. God just hides it in my consciousness until something triggers me to look for it, or I trip over it like a stray toy in the dark.
You pray too fast.
Those words did not form in my brain, they were just there, like they had always been there, waiting to be seen, or in this case uncovered when I tripped over them.
I could have answered, “I pray too fast,” but didn't. On this tour, few travelers knew I was a pastor; the rest knew me to be a teacher, and I did not want to blow my cover. I was enjoying the anonymity; the break from people's expectations. It was good to just be a regular person, and relate to people like that.
In seminary they taught us a pastor can NEVER take off the pastor hat, even if you think you have taken it off, people still see its shadow (unless you're on a G-Adventures Tour, and don't tell anyone). Ha! Take that Austin Seminary!
If she told me about her revelation, I am sure I was not listening; I was too absorbed in my own revelation about praying too fast. I knew it was from the Lord; I knew it was true, so I asked, slowly, what needs to change?
Come into my presence. And with that, my prayer life changed.
I started to pray without asking God for anything.
There was still plenty, plenty (as we say in Ghana), to ask of God but those things were not driving the reason I was praying and that changed everything.
Maybe this is why I visit sacred places that other faiths designate as holy, I learn about my experience of God by seeking to understand theirs.