Prayer is not a ritual; it is not a practice; it is not tradition; it is not a sacrament, it is not ‘the right thing to do’; it is not the ‘key to salvation’; it is not to appease God; it is not the way to receive forgiveness; and it is not the many other things that we hold it to be.

Prayer is about relationship and it is about community. It is really just a fancy word for talking to someone, where that someone happens to be God.

If you always find prayer boring then you aren’t doing it right.

You may find prayer boring because you aren’t actually talking to God. Repeating standard prayers and praying for the same thing each time could get very boring for us, let alone God who has to hear it each time. Try and talk to God like you would a good friend or a trusted mentor – he is a real person (for lack of a better term) and probably likes to mix things up a bit – I know I do. Sure you can be formal at times, but casual prayer and talking about mundane stuff that is going on in your life is good too.

You may also find prayer boring if you think God is boring; like those people you can’t talk to for long because you have nothing in common with them. Well, if you think God is boring then perhaps you need to get to know Him better – I guarantee you that you have a lot in common with Him. God is also very interactive, so if you don’t feel that God talks to you, then ask Him to. Be specific too. I asked God for a long time to ‘show me how much He loves me’. Now that is a prayer that God can’t resist answering!

So get into it – talk to God. He’s real, He has emotions, He has a sense of humour and he likes us to chat with Him. Even if you don’t profess to be religious in any way, God would still like you to talk to Him.

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I really struggle with the concept of taking out insurance. Insurance is a subtle symbol of the individualistic nature of our Western society and of the lack of faith that Christians have in God.

When I bought my car, I took out a loan (debatable whether this was a good idea). The financing company demanded that I have comprehensive insurance over my car, in the case that I write it off and cannot afford to repay the loan. I have asked myself whether I would take out insurance if I was not required to.

Life insurance is a simple example of the lack of true community with those around us and a lack of faith in God. Why do people take out life insurance? Well it’s generally so that when someone dies suddenly, a sum of money can be received by the surviving family. If the financial provider of the family passed away then the money can be used to cover living costs and any mortgage repayments. After all, if the surviving family members cannot meet their everyday expenses, they could face losing their house, forgo luxuries and maybe even struggle to put food on the table.

So why do I think insurance is such a bad thing then? Well, it minimises our need to have faith that God will look after us in times of trouble; and it also underplays our need to be part of a community of people, who can support and bless us when we fall into times of trouble.

Using the example of life insurance…

There is a lovely family: a husband, a wife and three beautiful young children. The couple have been married for 15 years and have spent the last 10 of those in their own home, which they have a mortgage over. The husband and wife both work part-time so that they can look after the children on their respective days off. One day in a sudden event, the husband passes away, survived by his wife and children. The wife quickly realises that her single salary is not enough to pay the bills as well as the mortgage. Her husband didn’t have life insurance and so she was left in financial turmoil. Even if she wanted to work full-time, she would still have to sell the house to get-by; but she’d rather continue working part-time to be able to care for her children.

Sounds like a terrible situation – it is. But what if this woman was part of a community of people that were very close and who shared life together. They meet as a group for meals regularly; they share their joys and sorrows with each other; they cook meals for their friends when they’re ill; and their children play together in the park. This community was very saddened by the death of their close friend and felt deep compassion for the rest of the family and their situation. In response to the financial strain placed upon the family, ten people within the community committed to contributing one hundred dollars a month so that the family could cover all their expenses and stay in the family home. The thought that they could be financially supporting the family for the next 20 years, until the house was paid off, did not even cross their mind. This family was their family – their community was so strong that they would do anything for each other, even if it meant sacrificing some luxuries of their own.

Sound like a nice story to you? I would love to be part of a community that was so close and so loving of each other, that doing such an act as described above, would be done without hesitation.

Western society hails the achievement of the individual and admires those who are independent and who can get-by without needing others. This is a fallacy. Real community is a central element of the Christian faith and of a healthy society. We were not made to be wandering souls without others beside us; rather we were created to enjoy full and loving community with both God and those people around us. “Love your neighbour as yourself” was Jesus’ way of saying “lend a hand to those around you as if they were your parents, your brother or your own child – someone that you would do anything for.”

Not only is this kind of community possible, but it is mandated by God, created through His Spirit and exists in pockets all throughout the World. Unfortunately the individualism of our culture has diminished the scale and impact of true community in Western nations like Australia.

I challenge you to love others as yourself and create real, lasting community with those around you. It will not only bring you closer to others, but it will bring you closer to the heart of God.