Dear Siblings in Christ,
My newsletter article last month was a follow up from a sermon I preached in July about prayer. To recap, I wrote that prayer is very important and is about strengthening our relationship with God and with others and that prayer always ‘works’ as long as we have a proper understanding of its purpose. It is not a ‘get what we want from God’ exchange. This month I’d like to address another aspect of prayer that some people struggle with and that is how to pray.
Jesus’ disciples asked Jesus how they should pray. Imagine that! Faithful Jews confused about how to speak to God! Well, if you understand the context of the scripture and the religious practices of first century Jews it is not all that surprising. Their relationship with God was much different than our relationship with God, and we have Jesus to thank for that. Yet, still some folks may seem intimidated by the thought of wanting to get that prayer just right.
The truth is there isn’t a right or wrong way to pray, and there are many different ways to pray. Some say to think of prayer as a conversation with God as if you were speaking with a friend. That’s not a bad way to think about except God isn’t like any of your friends. He is the Holy and Mighty God, All Powerful, All mighty, All knowing Creator. Unlike a conversation with a friend there probably should be at least a slight amount of awe in speaking with God. That doesn’t mean, however, it needs to be formal or filled with elegant speech and fancy words. It can be a simple conversation in form and language but with the understanding that one is speaking with God.
If you’re one who likes to have a formula or pattern of prayer, look no further than Jesus’ instruction to pray based on the pattern of the Lord’s Prayer. Start with praising or recognizing God’s Godness, thank Him for His limitless blessings and mercy, forgiving our sins, and for being the source of all things. That helps put one in a good mindset to then lift up prayers for ourself and others. The intercessory prayers (prayers on behalf of others) is where the part in the Lord’s Prayer that speaks of His will being done comes in. Praying according to His will implies that God knows what He is doing and we trust Him enough to accept His will in our prayers.
Jesus’ instruction to His disciples doesn’t mean that’s the only way to pray. It very well can be a conversation with Him. Prayer isn’t just about asking God for what we want. If it is about building a relationship with Him as I stated, then simply sharing what’s on your mind can be thought of as prayer. Complaining to God about having a bad day can be prayer. Being angry with God and questioning Him is a form of prayer. As can a simple, “Thank You God’ on seeing a beautiful sunset. Music can also be thought of as a form of prayer. All of these forms of prayer can be found in the Psalms, which are in some way the thoughts and communications ancient people had with God.
Prayer can be spoken out loud as they are in group situations. You may want to check your surroundings before praying out loud when your alone. Individual prayer is generally done silently, and that’s just fine. God knows your thoughts before you think them so He doesn’t need to ‘hear’ you. You can sit or stand, kneel or any other position that is comfortable. It usually helps to have a quite space so as to not get distracted, but that’s not necessary. I know plenty of people that can tune out the noise around them and focus their attention on God. Praying while driving (eyes open!), exercising, showering, brushing one’s teeth, cooking dinner, gardening, or any other activity that doesn’t require singular focus are common. I pray while I walk around my neighborhood. That works for me.
The point is, there is no ‘how’ to pray. Just pray. God is always happy to hear from you! The really important thing is to make prayer a habit, something you do regularly and that takes some intentionality initially. If not done initially at a set time and place its hard to make it a habit. But once it becomes a habit, it becomes something that comes naturally and something you’ll miss if you go several days without praying. I love my time with God! Just me and Jesus spending quality time together. It is when I feel closest to God and that is always the best time of my day. Why wouldn’t it be? That’s it for now. I may have more to say next month, but I’ll pray about it first.
Yours in Christ,