Stop Trying to Pray
A pastor invited the President his Alma Mater to dinner. His wife prepared dinner and set the table with their finest china. The proud pastor asked his 5-year-old son to say the blessing.
“But I don’t know how to pray,” the boy protested shyly.
Mom laughed uneasily, “Honey, pray like you hear mommy pray.”
The reluctant boy bowed his head and shrieked, “Dear God, why did we invite all these people to dinner!”
Like it or not, faith is caught more than it is taught.
“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’” (Luke 11:1)
Chuck Swindoll wrote: “Most of the stuff I have ever heard about prayer has left me under a truckload of guilt because I didn’t spend hours a day on my knees, or feeling incompetent because I couldn’t weave Scripture skillfully through my prayers. I begin to pick up the distinct impression that I was ‘out to lunch’ when it came to this part of my faith.”
If we could ever learn what Jesus taught his disciples we wouldn’t have to “try” we just would pray more.
Prayer Is Simple
“He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Hallowed be your name,
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
For we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.’” (Luke 11:2-4)
This is a simple prayer. Don’t mistake simple with shallow. The equation “2+2=4” is simple but it expresses an absolute and profound fact. Prayer is simple, but profound and powerful.
Prayer is personal.
Jesus told us to pray, “Our Father…” Not, “Clear your mind and try to become one with the universe, unite your consciousness with the great over-soul.”
That is how people who don’t know God pray. They pray hoping “someone” or “something” will hear them. Christians look their Father in the eye and ask, “Will you, Father, help me?” This is what makes Christian prayer unique, “Our Father”.
Prayer is Practical
“Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:5-13)
The word, “Ask” is used often. Jesus wanted us to understand that every activity of Christian faith is meant to have some tangible impact on our lives. Christianity is a ruthlessly practical faith. That is why it makes religious people nervous…even angry.
Prayer is Meant to Change Our Lives
A man is caught unprepared by guests. The surprised host hasn’t done any shopping. So, in desperation he runs to his neighbor’s house and bangs on the door. His irritated neighbor yells, “Get lost! It’s late and I have to get up for work tomorrow!”
But, Jesus says, “Even if it is late and inconvenient-if you are persistent-he will get up and help you just to shut you up and get you to go home!!”
Jesus is teaching by contrast that, even in a sinful world if you are bold enough to ask, you often can get people to do for you. How much greater will be the response when the one you are asking is your Father who wants to bless you and desires to help you?
What kind of need makes you willing to leave your bed and bang on your neighbor’s door at midnight? The nation’s economy may be bad but that doesn’t get me up at midnight. However, when I can’t pay my mortgage, I will be up! The fact that many marriages end in divorce won’t make me lose sleep, but when my marriage is falling apart, I can’t sleep.
God is interested in what has you pacing the floor at midnight. That’s what God wants you to talk with him about. Life is full of “midnight moments." Emergency room trips, financial crises, and family struggles. That is when it is midnight in your world. No one is prepared for times like that. So since life tends to happen all the time, God is available all the time.
We have to trust God to do what’s best for us
“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?
Jesus juxtaposed these objects to teach us that we can trust God for good answers, not destructive substitutes.
We all have a temptation to pursue artificial happiness. Often we pursue and clutch at things that look like what we need only to find out that they bring brokenness and guilt into our lives. But “The blessing of the Lord makes us rich and he adds no shame to it.”
Prayer Has One Primary Purpose
“…how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”
If you pray long enough you will realize that all you really need is God himself.
My father loves big cars. He loved finding some winding country road and cruising with the windows down. He invited us to join him often. As a boy, I would ask, “Can we buy candy on the way?” Over time, I started to enjoy the rides. I looked forward to the invitation. In fact, I started coming to him. “Hey dad, you want to go for a ride?” Not because I wanted anything. I simply enjoyed being with him.
The greatest gift of prayer is God himself. When we interact with him and depend on him for the needs and desires of our lives, we soon realize that what we really need is more of God. And He will give us himself through the Spirit when we ask.
Stop “trying” to be profound and selfless and impress God or others. Just pray.
You will be amazed at what happens.
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