How to Talk to God Like a Human

A few weeks ago, I was putting my older boys to bed. At ages nine and six, they don’t require much more than a tuck and a prayer. And usually it’s my husband’s gig. But Ben was out of town for work, so it was my duty to corral them. The Lord knew I was ready to plop down on the couch with my Totino’s party pizza, so I tried to hurry the process along. But when I announced it was time to pray, the grumbling began.

Neither boy wanted to talk to God.

My heart fell in a heap of sadness and fear. How could they not want to talk to God? Were they rejecting Him altogether? Do I force them to pray anyway?

But then it hit me: Why would they want to talk to God? Is the way I talk to Him or about Him appealing? Do I pray with them the same way I pray when I’m alone?

The answer was no. In fact, the way I had been praying out loud with my kids was almost the opposite of how I spoke to God in the recesses of my soul. I spoke was as if God were unfamiliar, simply the hearer of my requests—making Him seem more like Santa, than a Savior. There was no relationship. No gratitude or confession or connection.

No wonder my kids weren’t interested.

On a whim, I decided to try something: “Boys, you know: Praying is just talking to God. Just like I’m talking to you right now. Yes, we want to thank Him, to tell Him how much we love Him. But it’s also just telling Him what’s in our hearts and heads. It’s telling Him about our day and asking for help when we need it. Prayer is just talking to God and getting to know Him.”

I went on to model what I meant. “God, thank you for who You are. Thank you for loving me even when I’m impatient or grumpy. When I mess up. It’s been a really long day, and I’m tired. But all day long You’ve been with me. Thank You for loving me that way. I’m not always a great mom, but You are always good. God, I want my boys to know You. I want their hearts to want You. Thank you for loving them well even when I don’t. I love You, Jesus. Amen.”

I opened my eyes and turned to my oldest son and said, “See what I mean? Why don’t you try?”

Without hesitation, he jumped right in. His entire attitude about praying softened, and eagerly he talked to God like a nine-year-old boy should. Organic. Familiar. Personal. No routine words and phrases; just one little dude talking to Deity about his day. It was beautiful and sincere. Relational and respectful—everything prayer should be.

Since that night, I’ve seen a subtle shift in how my boys approach God. Sure, they still resist from time to time when asked to pray. We all know the saying about old habits. But overall, I sense something has clicked with them. I even caught one boy telling his younger brother, “Hey, just talk to God normal. It’s just talking.”

It’s just talking.

Shouldn’t it be this simple for the rest of us? Aren’t we all just humans speaking human to the God who gave us language in the first place? Or do we, in waiting around for the right words, end up saying no words at all? Do we get so caught up in what other people think of our prayers, in our eloquence or our perceived intimacy with God, that we change the way we speak with Him when other ears are listening? Why have we made such a “thing” about prayer—that even in our homes our kids are reluctant to talk to God because it feels unnatural?

Like most things in life, I have more questions than answers. But here’s what I do know: Some of my most beautiful moments with God transpired when I’ve talked to Him using all the wrong words—and I mean ALL of them. I’ve cried and lamented, whispered and wailed. I’ve given Him a piece of my angry mind. And when I was done, when I said all I came to say, I was able to rest my head on His chest, to listen to the cadence of His breath and the sweetness of His voice. Because I had emptied myself of all the words, His peace could enter in. And I knew Him better.

Our humanity doesn’t surprise God. And robotic prayers only hold Him at a distance. So why not talk with Him as we are? More and more, I’m confident that just by talking with God, by letting our words fall raw and untethered at His feet, He will gather us closer. Yes, over time, perhaps He’ll show us a better way to approach Him (for me, that’s fewer requests and more gratitude). But that transformation cannot happen when we aren’t talking to Him like people in the first place.

After all, it’s just talking.