I’ve been surprised how many people have asked me to teach them how to pray. Actually, it’s an honor, I suppose, that they think I might know. His disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray and He gave them what we often call “The Lord’s Prayer.” (Luke 11:1-4) Many have memorized it and recited it mindlessly in every kind of situation. Did they pray? Maybe, but only if they were understanding the words and making personal what they were saying.
I’ve found that most people who ask me to teach them to pray are worried about their wording, their posture and other externals. I’ve assured them that none of that really matters to God. I’ve told them that if they know how to talk, even how to think, then they know how to pray. The thoughts don’t have to be verbalized to become a prayer, so Paul can tell us to “pray continually.” (I Thess. 5:17)
Another piece of advice I’ve gladly given is to read and make personal the many prayers in the Bible. If you start looking, you may be surprised how many prayers you can find in scripture, even outside the Psalms. My favorite is one Paul prayed for the Ephesian Christians in Ephesians 3:14-21. I’m quoting it below from The Message, a paraphrase by Eugene Peterson, but you can read it in any version and make it your own with slight adjustments. I prefer the New International Version on these verses, but this version is refreshing. Pray it for yourself first and then for others you love.
“My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask Him to strengthen you by His Spirit — not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength — that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite Him in. And I ask Him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. God can do anything, you know — far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, His Spirit deeply and gently within us. Glory to God in the church! Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus! Glory down all the generations! Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!”
Article copyright (c) 2009 by Charles G. Mickey. All rights reserved.