Prayer and sex have more in common than we might think. To describe what I mean I’m going to talk more about sexuality, so if you don’t want to hear that, stop reading.
Sex is the most intimate act a person can do with another. There is complete openness, vulnerability, and nothing is hidden. When sex is happening according to the way God intended it to happen, it produces intimacy that makes marriage relationships stronger, more whole, and complete.
While God intended sex for good, it is often entangled with shame, power, control, self-centeredness, and recklessness. In many cultures and lives, sex has been robbed of it’s purity, and become an engine fueled by an individualistic and self-centered obsession with sex. Many confuse orgasm with sex and trade the intimacy of marriage, with masturbation and casual sex…if there is such a thing.
I believe we do this because we either fear the intimacy that ‘real sex’ brings, or because we’ve never experienced the intimacy of true self-sacrificial, life-giving, and positive self-revelation that holy sexuality brings. It is an issue of intimacy. We exchange what Godintended sex to be for what man has altered it to be because it’s easier. It’s easier to avoid intimacy than it is to truly give yourself to another. It’s easier to run from another than it is to pursue relationship. It’s easier to look at another person as an object than is to treat them like they are a person like us. It’s easier to be self-sustaining and self-centered than to risk rejection.
The truth is that intimacy is a really scary thing. Nobody wants to bear their soul to have it rejected. Nobody wants to be themselves and then look foolish to another. So I understand why we would avoid intimacy: We don’t want to ask the question,
“Do you unconditionally love who I really am?”
to have someone say,
So, enough about sex. Let’s talk about prayer. Prayer is a communal act in two ways: our communion with God and with others. I believe that these areas of communion are ultimately also intimacy issues. Our fear or inability to find intimacy in sexuality can also be fears that we experience in both community and individual prayer.
What if we try to talk with God and we don’t hear anything back? What if we pray out loud and look dumb or say something ‘not spiritual enough’? What if we ask something of God and he doesn’t give it? Does that mean he doesn’t love us? Or worse, isn’t really there?
So it’s easy to…just not pray. We avoid praying alone, but I’ve personally experienced a avoidance of initiating prayer in community. Or maybe just as toxic, we may begin to treat prayer as a discipline that we perform, but not really engage with. Or to treat prayer as a self-centered practice and treat God as an object to bend to our will.
Our ability to lean into our fear of or avoidance intimacy has a direct influence on the way that we are able to commune with God and others in prayer. (and our spouse in sex.)
Prayer is at it’s best when we are content being with God as we are, resting in His perfect acceptance of who we are. When we trust in the reality that God wants to commune withus we are free from performance anxiety, self-conscience speaking, and the need to appear perfect. We are free to be what God gave us freedom to be: ourselves.
One last thought: Our ‘intimacy quotient’ isn’t only an issue reserved for prayer and sex. It is ultimately an expression of how we feel about ourselves. If we desire wholeness then we must draw from a well that is deeper than we could ever drill. I believe that trusting in God’s unconditional grace and love for us is fundamental for us living in complete wholeness. It is on this foundation that we find our ability to discover intimacy…with God and others.