I pray, all the time, every day. Now before you canonize me, let me clarify that. I do not spend hours on my knees. I do not live in the church’s sanctuary for days on end. I cultivate a ‘God-awareness’ that allows me to breathe my prayers. Praying is not an activity that is some part of my day, it is a way of life that shapes my day – from my meditation in the early morning, to my petitions at mid-day, to my commitment of all that I love to Him as I lay down to sleep. Prayer is a deeply emotional part of my life – where I cry, laugh, groan, sing, and often simply keep silent! Sometimes prayer overflows from a sense of deep need and sometimes joy just bursts into prayer. This much I know – prayer changes me and the world in which I live; no doubt about it.
If you want to be an agent for positive change, pray! God gives us a privilege of bringing every situation, every need, every joy to Him in prayer. He invites us to ask Him about anything; our fears, doubts, sicknesses, hopes, kids, marriage, church, sins, victories, losses, successes, and failures. Are you taking Him at His Word? “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.” (Phillipians 4:6 NLT)
The practice of prayer should not be difficult, yet for many Christians it is. What is offered as a source of strength and comfort becomes a source of guilt, even shame. Over the years many have told me, “Pastor, I know I should pray, but I don’t. What is the best way to pray?” Jesus’ disciples felt that inadequacy, too, and asked Him to teach them to pray. His response to that request was to remind them that prayer is not a performance. “When you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father secretly. Then your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you. “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered only by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!” (Matthew 6:6-8, NLT) Get alone with God. Approach Him, not as a fearful Deity, but as Father. Avoid endlessly repetitive words. Let the Spirit align you with His will!
He gave them the model that we call The Lord’s Prayer. “This, then, is how you should pray: ”‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’” (Matthew 6:9-13, NIV)
True prayer is so much more than a ‘shopping list’ or a recitation of our needs. When we pray, we connect with God and we are changed. If our prayers are just offered to get God to do what we want Him to do, let’s be honest here – we will soon quit ‘praying’ out of frustration. Too many of those prayers seem to go unanswered. That’s not to say we cannot or should not ask Him for specific needs. We are invited to do that, but with a humble heart. The better part of prayer is learning to lean on Him, to commune with Him as we sense His Presence working in us.
Make prayer your first response, not your last resort. If you find yourself saying, “well, at least we can pray,” you have a false paradigm in place. You are trying to be God and only when you are completely overwhelmed will you turn to the Lord in desperation. Change that. Let God be God and become His child. Then, you will say, “Let’s pray,” and delight in consciously entering into communion with the Almighty, Sovereign, Friend, Savior, Healer, and King! Be wary of those who offer prayer formulas, who claim to know how to get God to do what they want, or who imply that they know exactly how to pray. Prayer involves great faith and deep mystery. God reminds us that “For as the sky soars high above earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think.” (Isaiah 55:9, The Message) And He invites to come and learn and lean!
Here are two words of invitation.
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV)
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16, NIV)
Let us pray!