Years ago I came across the phase “a comfortable walk with God,”  which was coined by early Puritan writers.  James Houston used it while discussing prayer,  referring to a person coming to peace with who they were in relationship to God.  He said, in effect, “A person is never more true to themselves and more natural before God, than when they are in Christ.” 

I thought of “the comfortable walk” when our men’s group discussed the chapter on the “Discipline of Devotion” in R. Kent Hughes book, “Disciplines of a Godly Man.” The tendency for men is to make our devotional life a religious performance in which we win favor with God and satisfy ourselves by being spiritual.   In a group, men often measure their spirituality by comparing themselves with other men. There’s always pressure to measure up to a certain standard.  In a book entitled “The Pressure’s Off,” Larry Crabb maintains that when you seek God and nothing else, the pressure truly is off.  

We can easily make our walk with God something that works well for us.  It is more about us than a relationship with God.  If we do certain spiritual practices, then we will be blessed by the Lord.  Crabb warns, “when the desire becomes our goal, the objective we most value… our lives then become a sustained effort to discover and follow whatever principles will provide a life that lets us feel pretty good.”  As a result, “the pressure is on.”

My journey of prayer has been one of “letting go” and simply “receiving.”  It has taken years for me to become “comfortable” in my walk with the Lord.  It has been plagued with pride, shame, selfishness, and self-pity. What has made it a ”burden” at times is that my calling was to be a “professional holy man.” I was paid to be good.  The pressure was on for a lot of years. I still get caught on “my treadmill” of trying to be good.  But thankfully, I am finding more freedom and joy in my walk.  Even so, I still hit “ditches and potholes” of my own making when I focus on me.  

After years of growth and struggle, here is some hard-learned discoveries I have come to appreciate about prayer:

1)  First and foremost, prayer is not a duty or discipline, but rather an ongoing conversation with the living God.  He has put within each of us a hunger to know Him.  The Psalmist says it passionately, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God” (Ps. 42:1)  Panting is a heartfelt response.  I bring my whole self before God, not just my “shiny, religious self.” 

2)  The Lord is already present within me.  Paul reminds us, “The Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (Romans 8:26).  Did you know that prayer is already going on in your soul?  The Lord is there waiting for you to make yourself available to Him.

3)  I need to get beyond my thoughts and simply be quiet in the presence of the Lord.  Listening is imperative in a mutual and intimate relationship. 

4)  My maturing in prayer is unique to my personality.  What works for me does not necessarily work for someone else. We find our own unique way with Him.  

5)  This has been particularly hard to accept: the Lord changes the nature of the relationship as I mature.  My Father is after intimacy and oneness.  I have to give up my childish ways, including my “spiritual achievements.” 

Remember: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (II Cor. 3:17).