“This, then, is how you should pray…” Matthew 6:9
I don’t know if you’ve looked recently, but there are a lot of books on prayer. They range from how to pray to effectively, to praying particular models, using them as a battle plan and 20,000 titles in between. It’s no wonder so many people tell me they “can’t” pray or don’t pray “well.” It sounds nice to say that prayer is just a dialogue between us and God, but if that’s all there is to it, why does it seem so complicated and why do other people seem better at it?
It seems even the disciples were confused about it, one of them requesting Jesus teach them how to pray.* While teaching, Jesus addressed some pitfalls people fell into during prayer that I think we still see today. There are those for whom prayer is a challenge, and they tend to be vague and unexpectant. Then there are those steeped in a particular fashion, and their prayers are boxy and formulaic, or impressive and eloquent, almost as if the person praying is reciting a magical incantation. Jesus taught the first when they ask something from God should present their requests blatantly and with faith and the second that God is not manipulated with flowery language or showy display.
I’m going through this with my oldest son right now, who is just starting to realize he can talk to God. “Ask him to protect me from the shadows,” his small voice requests. We pray together, and he exuberantly punctuates with a big “AMEN!” It’s not eloquent, it isn’t formulaic, I’m not trying to impress God, I am simply addressing a Father with the concerns of a son. Today, we open ourselves up and ask God to reveal if there’s any dysfunction in our prayer life, and echo the call of the disciple’s heart, “Teach us to pray.”
Examine how and when you typically pray. Do you have difficulty getting your requests specific? Have you fallen into the trap of eloquence?
Ask Jesus to teach you how to pray. Listen for what the Holy Spirit brings up in your heart and talk to God about it. Write it below.