Susan and I prayed together nightly for most of our marriage. Sometimes the prayers were short but we seldom skipped a night for more than three decades. It was a cherished habit.
Several years ago I entered a season of spiritual questioning. The questions made praying seem hypocritical so I waited for God to woo me back. I wanted the indwelling Spirit to speak up. Instead, everything became eerily silent when I quit talking.
I missed praying with Susan but chose not to go through the motions. Instead we talked about my concerns and tried to understand what I was experiencing, or, more accurately, not experiencing.
Daily Bible reading was another spiritual discipline I had maintained for my entire adult life, thanks to a youthful vow made at a Bill Gothard conference. This too dropped away as I felt a growing distance between me and God. The contradictions and paradoxes in the text stood out more than the commands and promises.
I missed the certainty of knowing exactly what the Bible taught but could no longer ignore the nagging difficulties of applying parts of this ancient book to a modern world.
Much has changed in the last few years—for good and ill—but I am still a seeker of Truth. I am still stumbling toward heaven. Nowadays I pray, but with fewer words and less certainty. I study the Bible, but without evangelical eyewear. I believe these practices are vital, but no longer treat them as talismans.
Even good habits can ossify with age and hinder movement. Rote behavior can lead to rigid practice and limit growth. Spiritual rigor mortis can set in long before physical death. Don’t let it. It hurts to stretch but it keeps one flexible.