I’ve been thinking about the way Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, from Matthew chapter 6…
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray:
‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.'”
Here is the same passage in the Message version:
“And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat?
Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.
The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this:
‘Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best-
as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.'”
There are so many things that I love about the way Jesus mapped out prayer for us. Yes, it is a prayer that we can say from our hearts, but it has also become rote for many. It wasn’t meant to be rote…it was a teaching on how intimate our Father in heaven is and how we can come to Him with anything since Jesus said prior to leading into the prayer, “…your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” He didn’t say that so we don’t pray…”Oh well, God knows every scenario, He knows what I need so I don’t even need to talk to Him about it” or “He’s got it all figured out, the whole wide world, so my prayers won’t make a difference anyway”… That’s not what Jesus meant either. Prayer is communication with God, pure and simple. How refreshing to know that God knows our hearts so intimately that we can come before Him and say, “Here I am Lord. I am: overwhelmed; afraid; confused; frustrated; angry; grateful; hopeless; hopeful; unsure of Your will; hungry for You but don’t know what that looks like; etc. etc.” Again, the concept I’ve said before that there is no such thing as a secret, so just be straight up with God.
Prior to that Jesus was talking about being ‘wordy’ in prayer. Research has said that on average women speak between 15,000 and 20,000 words a day. I know women on either side of that spectrum and I know I’ve been guilty of blowing that statistic out of the water. I know I’ve come to God with too many words at times. It’s usually when I’m anxious, fearful, feeling overwhelmed, actually, when I think about it, it’s when I’m feeling ‘insecure’ in who I am in God…not trying to impress God, but trying to make sure He gets what I’m trying to say…funny, huh?! “Lord, let me ‘splain the details since You might be too busy with the Universe and all. I just want to make sure You get it…oh, and while I’m here, talking to You, let me offer some suggestions on how this could turn out for me and for everyone else involved, everyone wins, You get the glory…I’ve got some great ideas, You should hear them…”
I’ve been thinking about the way Jesus taught us to pray in light of the stories in the Bible and in light of current events, especially where the outlook was potentially grim or the journey quite tragic. Regarding “The Lord’s Prayer”, the beginning is a time of blessing God’s name and establishing trust in Him for His will, His overall plan, His specific plans for each of us. The second part is a ‘one day at a time’ prayer: food, our attitudes, living selflessly. The third I find particularly interesting in light of Job’s life: ‘lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one’. Essentially, “Lord, help me keep my eyes on You in the midst of everything around me. I know the devil hates my guts and will do anything to deter my heart and passionate pursuit of You. Help me not be tempted to give into his lies…I know You are good…I just don’t understand this mess.”
In light of today’s verdict, I just want to encourage us all that God is on the throne. He knows what He’s doing. He has never intended us to live here on earth physically separated from Him. But since we do temporarily, He has made a way for us to be tenderly connected to Him. It’s through prayer. Not rote prayer, but praying on all occasions and in all circumstances. Talking to Him as if He’s sitting right there, on that chair, next to you, intently listening to your heart…a heart torn between heaven, your true home, and earth, the home where you currently dwell…