Prayers, petitions to God, how do we pray? Do we pray? Do we pray constantly as Paul said in one of his epistles? How do we learn how to pray? And, why do we pray? Does it do any good? Is God really listening to our prayers?
Don’t get nervous. I’m not going to ask any of you to answer these questions. But we do need to consider them. They’re important because it gives us some idea about our own spirituality.
God does know everything about us but God also desires an intimacy with us that is only complete when we talk with God. I almost wrote “Him.”
If God in the feminine gender is what you need to be intimate with God then I believe God can do that for us. I really don’t think about that too much, though I do say “he” and “him” but it’s habit more than anything else. I think God understands.
So, how do we pray and why? Do we just have conversation with God when we do our devotions and then never talk with him/her the rest of the day? Or do we just talk with God right before we fall to sleep thanking him for the blessings and trials of the day? Or…do we have a running conversation with God…all day…and God’s probably happy when we do dose off. At least then he/she can pay attention to someone else’s needs.
Speaking of needs, is that the only time we come to God in prayer? It may be true for some folks. When life is good and everything is running smoothly do we think that we don’t need to bother God with our prattle?
Friends, those who’re married, do you only converse with your spouse when you need something or do you talk with them all day long? Think about that. Maybe our prayer life is patterned after our own lives.
So, let’s go on to how we learn how to pray. How did you learn how to pray? Was there someone in your life who you thought was a good pray-er? And did you create prayers that were similar to theirs? I think that’s okay. The best teachers are those who teach us by their own examples.
Or...maybe you’re still working on praying. Actually we’re probably all still refining our prayers because we don’t think they’re good enough. But, you know, if we’re praying to God then whatever we’re saying is good for God. At least we’re making the effort to be in conversation.
But, how to pray is a concern for most of us and it certainly was for Jesus’ disciples. They wanted Him to teach them how to pray as John had taught his disciples.
So, Jesus gave them an example, a rough draft, of what prayer with God, the Father, should be like. I don’t think it had to be exactly, word for word, like that but it gave them an idea of how to pray to God.
The Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father is one of the examples Jesus gave his disciples and it provides a good foundation for us.
We come to God in prayer with respect as if we were talking to our own fathers. We pray, realizing that God can and will do what is best, asking that His will be done, His will not ours.
And…we pray that what is being done in heaven will be done on earth. We are letting God know that we desire heaven on earth. We desire peace and tranquility. We desire beauty and justice and righteousness.
We then ask God to forgive us as we forgive those who do wrong against us. So, if we aren’t forgiving then it might be that God wouldn’t be very forgiving toward us.
We pray that God will provide food to sustain us. We don’t pray for extra large portions but for just enough to get us through the day.
And then we pray that God will keep us from the trial and temptations of life. I think we pray that because we know how weak our wills are. We know that we can’t resist the temptations of this world without God’s help. Look how hard it is for us to give up cigarettes or alcohol or drugs or gambling or shopping or eating or any of the other things that we abuse just our bodies with every day. We want, we desire that God would keep us away from the evil things of this world.
Not in Luke but in Matthew the petition continues by asking that God protect us from the evil one.
And that’s where it ends. So, what’s the right way to pray? Friends, it may be that if we would do nothing else but begin by praying the Lord’s Prayer everyday, every time we felt the need to pray soon our prayers might evolve into prayers that were more conversational because we’d become comfortable talking with our Creator.
The Lord’s Prayer is just the beginning, the foundation upon which to build our prayer life. There are many different and varied ways that we can pray. And, I believe, that God hears us and is paying attention to all prayers that are lifted up to him.
I’d like to end today’s message with a reading from 2nd Chronicles… it says…
2 Chron. 7:14…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
Thanks be to God for the gift of prayer and his grace. Amen.