Christianity Questions: How do I pray?

Prayer. This topic could take awhile, and in fact I think I will break it up in more than one post for the sake of not forcing you to read too much at once.  You’re welcome.

 

I find it impossible to address how we should pray, without wanting to talk about all the ways we shouldn’t pray.  I don’t feel too bad though, because apparently Jesus dealt with the same issue.   So what does the bible say about prayer?  What is prayer?  And how should we do it?

 

First of all I just want to get this out there: Prayer is communicating with and listening to God.

 

It’s that simple.  So why have we made it so complicated?

 

Problem Number 1: Rote Babblings.

 

Jesus said, “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions 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.”

 

Jesus clearly told us not to babble and not to repeat.  But walk into any group of believers, whether it’s in a “church” service or small group setting and what will you hear?   You can pretty much hand the pray-er an adlibs sheet and let them fill in the blanks, because it’s going to sound like every prayer that they’ve ever prayed in that group.

 

Oh ______________ (adoring praise adjectives) Lord, we come before you today _______________(humble asking words) of __________  (a word or phrase that means forgiveness) for our many sins.  We thank you for __________________ (anything—noun or verb).  We pray that you will please __________________(acceptable action of God’s), __________(acceptable action of God’s), and ______________(acceptable action of God’s).  And we pray that you will please be with _________ (a sick person’s name), who is sick.  And we pray for _________(a troubled person’s name), who is dealing with ____________(a personal issue—but not too personal!), we pray that you will let them know __________ (an attribute of the nature of God).  We pray for you to please be with our government, our troops, our President, and our school teachers.  All of this we ask in the __________ (adoring praise adjectives) name of your _____________ (adoring praise adjectives) son Jesus.  Amen.

 

Why do we pray like this when we gather?  Because we’ve seen other people do it.  Plain and simple.

 

You want to know a secret?  I think we pray too much as a gathering.  We do it because we feel like we have to, because all the other people we’ve been around have done it.  We pray at the beginning of class and the end of class.  We pray when we begin the service, after a couple of songs, after all the songs, before the preaching, after the preaching, during the “invitation”, and one last time before we’re “released” from the “service”.

 

Is all of that necessary?  Is it biblical?  Is it doing anything?

 

Disclaimer: I think we should pray together and not just alone.  I believe that the early church prayed together because we have evidence of it in our bible.  But when they gathered to pray, it was always with a single-minded focus.  Because they were waiting on the holy spirit, or because they desired the boldness of the holy spirit, or because Peter was in jail or something, you know?  Not because they had just entered a room or were about to exit a room.

 

Problem Number 2: Prayer Language


As Husband once said, “Ask any 50 year old Georgian to pray and suddenly he’s from Elizabethen England.”

“Dear sweet gracious heavenly father.  We come to thee tonight…” *insert adlib prayer here*

 

And, again, because it’s the only thing we’ve see done, we think that must be what a truly spiritually mature soul must sound like when they speak with our most sweet gracious and heavenly father.  So we’re terrified of being “called on” to pray because we just know that we’d never “get it right” and that our prayer wouldn’t be long enough or something.

 

Hogwash.

 

Jesus said keep it simple, because God already knows what you need.  Solomon said something similar one time.  And neither of them said “thee” or “thy”.

 

… to be continued.

 

-Jessica

Comments

  1. Dear Heavenly Father of whom I adore, I come to you humbly to ask you to bless Jessica in her endeavors of helping people to know what prayer is and how to talk to Sweet boogity boogity Baby Jesus. Thank you for hearing my prayer. AMEN.

    LOL. Jessica, you’re awesome!

    • I, of course, do think that God is our father in heaven and He is gracious and so forth. I just think we need to be careful with the repetitive when it’s not truly coming from the heart, you know? :)

  2. I am in complete agreement with you! I am in a church that just doesn’t “get it” sometimes…very old fashioned and traditional, so I hear these types of prayers often. It bothers me. I love your blog and get great insight from it. When I am reading your posts, I often wonder if you were reading my mind ;-).

  3. Born Catholic ( in the Midwest), I memorized all my prayers like good Catholics do.
    It wasn’t until I was born again (June 2010) and found my church home that I:
    A). Learned what prayer (REALLY) is
    B). Learned how to pray (being in groups, listening to others)
    C). Was prayed over – a first! An unbelievably powerful experience for me.
    D). Know a great “pray-er” when I hear one (it does come down to personal preference)
    E). Fail daily in having good conversations with my Savior

    The End.

    • I just came from a job that was FULL of Latin-Americans (in other words: Catholilcs). They unanimously seemed “burnt” by their experiences in the church. While their traditions were far more “official” than ours, rest assured if you deviate from the traditional-sounding prayer in a Baptist church, you more than likely won’t be asked to pray in public again. I can testify to that. Our prayers may not be written in a book, but they definitely are written in the social mores.

  4. Did you know that prayer used to be the one thing that embarrassed me about my Christian walk? I just couldn’t seem to get it right. I would fall asleep! while praying. I would forget to pray. I would tell people I was praying and it would be an absolute lie.

    What a Christian crock I was.

    However, I have learned two things:
    1. Grace applies to all areas. Even prayer.
    2. Prayer is communication, and we all have different communication styles and one individual may communicate differently between different people, and even more differently between different people in different situations.

    Which led me to understand that God loves me when I pray, and even when I fall asleep mid prayer. It taught me that because of the forgetful nature of my personality I needed to stop and pray for people while I remembered it. It told me that because I am not a monologue speaker that it was okay with God that I spoke in several phrases throughout the day.

    It also taught me that my simple prayers were acceptable because God knew and loved my heart.

    Oh, and He also loves the heart of 70 year old Mr Bill who simply can not speak to God in public without using a thee and a thou. A man who also keeps a prayer notebook in his front pocket so that when he is out and a about and a grocery store checker lets it slip that her son has cancer, he can write down her name, her son’s name and her prayer need. A man, who every day, spends a great portion of his day in prayer for others, beseeching God on their behalf.
    He can keep saying his thees and thous if he wants. I strongly suspect that they are like music to the ears of my Heavenly father.

    • Whoever this Mr. Bill is, someone should write his biography! I wish I could know them. I’m reading a book for seminary right now called Prayer: the Timeless Secret of High-Impact Leaders, by Dr Earley. Those kinds of people are the ones that influenced the Charles Spurgeon’s and D.L. Moody’s of the Christian world. You need to help Mr. Bill get a blog or something!

      • He also likes to randomly pay for people’s meals in the line at any given fast food restaurant and every time I have eaten a meal out with him he asks his waitress if there is anything he can pray for her for. Then he does! He is an amazing man, and my husband and I learned a lot about how to live out our Christian faith by watching him live out his.

        • And that is the kind of man that is more like Jesus than a lot of “Christians” that I know! That’s admirable!

  5. Prayer – I almost wrote a plank pulling post in it. Maybe I might for this week. But reading this reminded me of a fellow that would, as I called it, “touch all the bases” . . . you know *just* in case:

    “Dear Heavenly Father, God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Lord, Savior, . . . ” I believe it a -valued-prayer by our Abba, but it really was all I could do to not snicker, and mentally roll through the check list of Names – ya know?

    That being said, God takes the communication where we’re at, isn’t that wonderful? SO if your comfortable just “chatting” with him – good, but if your more comfortable talking to him showing reverence (hopefully not creating distance at the same time) then God still loves hearing it from you.

    Anyway – love the spiritual mental food – I’m gonna gnaw on it for a while.

  6. I would also like to know someone like Mr. Bill. ;) He sounds like a really good guy to know. Thank you for this post, Jessica, and I am looking forward to reading the rest of the installments. :D

  7. I learned to “pray better” by praying while driving an hour to and from work a few years ago. It turned into more of my simply talking to God rather than trying to gussy up my language.

Trackbacks

  1. […] week we talked a little bit about repetitive babbling and unnecessary prayer language.  This week we’re going to continue to talk about vain prayers.  Why talk about how not to […]

  2. […] far in Part 1 we talked about repetitious babbling.  In Part 2 we talked about asking God to do what he’s […]