The latest pea under my mattress is self-help books on how to pray. I recently saw an advertisement for a book on how to pray “authentically.” Prayer can be hard for many of us, and I worry about putting more pressure on folks to “do it right.”
The fact is we already have the book that tells us how to pray.
In the Holy Bible, here’s what Jesus says about praying:
“When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you
pray go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him.”
Matthew 6: 5-9.
Jesus goes on to say, “pray like this,” and gives us the Lord’s Prayer. We say the Lord’s Prayer at my church every Sunday morning during prayer time. I’ve occasionally heard the complaint that it has become rote, without meaning. If it has, it’s on us, not Him. The Amish folks upon whom I base my novels, typically say the Lord’s Prayer every day, more than once a day. Why? Because they say they cannot improve on Jesus’s words.
Just prior to United Airline Flight 93 crashing into that field in Pennsylvania on 9-11, Todd Beamer recited the Lord’s Prayer and the 23rd Psalm with the operator before he and the other passengers confronted the hijackers.
The Lord’s Prayer is the one prayer most of us brought up as Christians memorized at an early age.
The words come to us when we need them. In the CT scanner, in the ICU, before surgery, on deathbeds.
The Bible also tells us when to pray. “Pray continually.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Romans 12:12
We already have a book with all the instructions. I don’t believe there’s a certain way to do it. Which is a relief. It’s hard enough as it for those of us who had difficult or abusive relationships with the earthly fathers in our lives. Just getting past the idea of a peeving Jehovah to an Abba daddy is hard enough. I’m reminded of an old TV show, “Soul Man,” that starred Dan Aykroyd as an Episcopalian priest. John Goodman was his friend and not a practicing believer. He needed God in his life, but couldn’t bring himself to pray. The pastor asked his friend if he could find a way to pray what would it sound like. John Goodman began to sing very softly, “Mustang Sally.”
The point is whatever works to get those lines of communication open is what we should be doing. We shouldn’t be afraid that God’s critiquing our technique. It’s about content not form. He’s listening and loving us for trying so hard. Pastor David says to pray like you’re talking to a friend. And then listen in the quiet for his response.
That’s not easy for everyone. But there’s merit in the effort. God sees and he knows. Talk to Him.
“Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
Is there a special place and/or time of day that works best for you for prayer time? Feel free to share in the comments below!