“Lord, teach us to pray.”
I dare you to live that prayer.
I love this verse because it shows that this whole prayer thing can be learned. No one is born knowing how to be the perfect husband. Or mother. Or pray-er. You aren’t the first aspiring Jesus-follower to have a hard time figuring this out. I’m no prayer expert but I’ll share a few insights I wish I’d known earlier.
God hears me even when I don’t think I can hear Him. I’ve often been tempted to think that my prayers were getting nowhere because I could not “feel” something happening. Or, I have felt like I was being a hypocrite to pray when I didn’t really feel into it. My love is weak, my heart is distracted. Yet I have learned that even my weak love and feeble prayers mean loads to our Father in heaven.
Don’t act like a professional. Don’t try to sound cool. Don’t try to learn the religious lingo of strange Christians you meet. Just get real with God.
The Bible helps. I used to separate my Bible reading and prayer. But something happened when I started to use the Bible to help me pray.
There are many pathways in prayer. Of course we can pray quietly with our eyes closed. But we can also pray loudly with our eyes open. We can write our prayers – or type our prayers. We can pray in a closet or on a chair, standing or kneeling. Some people really connect while in nature. Some connect while singing or listening to music. Silence is good. So is darkness. Or a sunrise. You get the idea.
I need both structure and spontaneity. It’s no mistake that Jesus left us a very sticky, but structured prayer that many call the Lord’s prayer. (Matthew 6:9-13) I often use that as my prayer prompt. (TRY THIS) And then I also go completely off-script and pray my heart. Sometimes I buy my wife a greeting card with structured poetry written by someone else. But then I add my own words as well. I use both.
Put God-time on your schedule. Some people are spontaneous and others are quite scheduled. Regardless, life has a way of slipping away from you. Twenty-four hours come and go and you can’t figure out where they went. If communication with God is going to happen, it needs to make the schedule. Every single day. Pick a time. Avoid giving your leftovers. Get with God, turn the phone off, and let it rip.
There is a threshold. I can’t explain this scientifically, but I have found that there is something like a threshold in the place of prayer that, once crossed, makes all the agony in getting there worth it.
Hell hates prayer. Expect every possible distraction to keep you from pursuing your relationship with God in this way. Depressed people get hope in prayer. Husbands start loving their wives in prayer. Children soften their hearts in prayer. So I expect an emergency to try and interrupt my time with Jesus. I expect a million reminders of things I need to do today. I expect to become sleepy. I expect to become bored. But I press on. And I’ve never been sorry when I endured in the place of prayer.