Prayer! People have all kinds of thoughts as to what it looks like, sounds like, feels like, and what it really is! Some people never give prayer a second thought while for some, it consumes their every thought! Some people admire the prayers of others, while others watch in disgust and judgment as people pray. Some people listen to others more fluent in prayer and then determine they could never pray “like that” so don’t even try. Some people have decided it is a “private” matter so it is nobody’s business how or when they pray. Some people will not pray “out loud” or pray “over” people while others look for opportunities to pray and lay hands on people to bless them. Some people like to receive prayer and some don’t. Some people pray table prayers before and after meals, some don’t. Some people pray only in the morning and before bed, some don’t even do that much. Some people pray intercessory prayers, others don’t have a clue what that is. Some people warfare in prayer, while others find that outrageous or have never heard of it before. Some people pray “in their head” while others just think they pray in their head. Some people like to tell others they will pray for them and then don’t, while others pray right on the spot. Some people have prayer lists and dutifully pray for all the people and needs while others think a list is too religious. Some people close their eyes, bow their heads, and fold their hands when they pray while others keep their eyes wide open, turn their face toward heaven, and lift their hands to their God. Some people pray in tongues, while others don’t believe this gift exists. Some people bow on their knees or lay prostrate before the Lord when praying while others stay sitting in their seats. Some people pray constantly while others pray only when they need something. Some people pray about everything while others think God is too busy to be concerned about every detail of our lives.
It seems obvious Christians have made prayer more about us, what we think or have concluded, and our own comfort level and not about God and His commands and desires. This variety in the “way” people pray might not be so bad if every believer was passionately in love with Jesus and we were all seeing our Father’s will done on earth as it is in heaven. But since that isn’t the case, this individuality in prayer appears to be more limiting than effective. In other words, I don’t think it is working! But we keep trying. We have prayer transformation classes, prayer conferences, books about “how to” pray and how to develop a disciplined and dynamic prayer life. We can learn techniques to prophesy as we pray, how to soak people in prayer, how to intercess or to tell the “signs” of intercession, how to sense body pain so we can pray more directly, and on and on it goes. And still…we are missing the simplicity of prayer, and even worse, the intimate dialogue we share with our Father in heaven.
Prayer is not a lifestyle nor is it optional for believers! It is not a burden, hindrance, distraction, or obligation. We should not debate prayer nor keep it private. It need never be dry or stagnant, and prayer never settles for less than God’s best! Prayer is conversation by which we pour out the deep love we have for our Father in heaven. It is how we speak with the Creator of the universe! Prayer is an intimate exchange with Jesus, the One who saved us! In prayer we express honor and adoration for the only One who deserves it all! It is the channel by which we articulate our thoughts, feelings, and emotions to our Savior who understands as nobody else does. Through prayer we grow and convey our heart cries to a living God! In prayer we confess our sin, repent, and receive forgiveness. Through prayer we receive cleansing and purification. Prayer is also our vehicle for making requests to our Father in heaven and He hears us! It is through prayer we stay alert to the wiles of the enemy as well as to the signs of the times. It is in prayer that God reveals His secrets and mysteries to those who seek Him.
Prayer is talking to God! Talking to God grows our relationship with Him! The more we pray the more we know God, the more we open ourselves to Him, and the more our relationship grows. Prayer is spending time with our Father in heaven. So the question begs to be asked “How can one be taught how to “be” with their Father? Or better yet, do we not find it insulting to have to “learn” how to talk to or hear from God? Yet that is exactly how we treat God and prayer – something to be learned instead of something experienced in a Father/Child relationship.
When I got married, I didn’t have a clue about the depth of love and intimacy I would experience. I was afraid of deep conversation, refused to be vulnerable, and didn’t understand the mystery of the “two becoming one”. I distrusted nearly everyone, was jealous of my husband, possessive of all that we had, and protective of myself in every way possible. My husband chose to love and accept me as I was AND also loved me enough not to leave me where I was at. His desire to see us grow deeper in love was demonstrated through his loyalty, faithfulness, patience, and trust. Together we served and worshipped the Lord, studied God’s Word, prayed and talked – A LOT! Naturally, as we talked we learned more about one another, and I learned to trust him. In other words our relationship deepened and continues to deepen over thirty years later because we talk!
And one thing is for certain; I did not need to learn “how to” talk and love my husband, I simply needed to talk to him and love him. I know this goes against the flow of marriage counselors and the like since we have marriage seminars, retreats, books, counseling, and the like. Approaching marriage on a “how to” basis however does a great disservice to the beauty and oneness inherent in a husband and wife. It minimizes the value of the relationship by making it about a “method” instead of love.
And so it is with God. We should not need to learn “how to” talk with God and love Him, but instead simply talk to Him and love Him. Surely we will make mistakes but when we rely on His grace and forgiveness we will keep talking to God. He will help us as we say “yes” to Him. He demonstrates loyalty, faith, patience, and trust in us and loves us way more than we can ever imagine and will not leave us as we are if we submit our will to His own. His desire is to see you and I grow deeper in love with Him and that will happen if we talk to Him and let Him talk to us- A LOT!
I believe this is the example of Jesus. I don’t see Jesus offering any prayer clinics, transformation classes, “how-to” instruction manuals, or telling us about different techniques of prayer. Instead we hear His voice in Luke 11 “When you pray, say…” The disciples observed Jesus’ life, especially how He prayed and then said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Those are simple, yet revealing words! They didn’t ask Him how to pray as we often do today, but simply teach us TO pray.
The disciples marveled at His lifestyle of prayer. They were in awe of the relationship He had with His Father in heaven. They wanted to feel that same way, and friends, it is not something that can be taught. Jesus knew and loved His Father and longed to spend time talking with Him. He prayed in the wilderness, on the mountain, in the temple, in the garden, in homes, on the road. He prayed alone, with a few people, with large crowds, and He prayed all night, He war-fared in prayer, and gave Himself over to prayer. The disciples watched Him and wanted to emulate His prayer life. Do we? Or do we just want to learn “how to” pray, treating this most special relationship like a classroom project?
We have called Jesus’ words from Luke 11 and Matthew 6 “The Lord’s Prayer” and unfortunately many people use it as a “model” for prayer instead of taking Jesus at His Word and saying what He said to pray. If we simply use this prayer as a “model” we treat it much like we would in putting together a model car, train, or plane – something to be played with or looked at but it can’t take us anywhere. Instead we ought to stop playing and start praying as Jesus said to! Stop learning “how to” and just do! Jesus has given us the key and the vehicle, we just need to turn the key, be driven in prayer, and see where He takes us every time we pray! So let’s discover the key, grab hold of it, pray, and journey with Jesus!
The “key” for prayer is the words “When you pray, say…” (Luke 11:2) Every time we pray we know we have the key in our mouths – all we need to do is “say” what comes next! With the key we get into our prayer vehicle, we get into God! We say “Our Father in heaven” (Matt.6:9; Luke 11:2). This puts the “key” into the ignition which means of course that we are in the driver’s seat. The key (what we say) ignites our prayers. When we say “Our Father in heaven” we are focusing our thoughts and words firmly on our heavenly Father, His presence in our lives and in heaven, and nothing and nobody else matters. We make a declaration of “family” as we say “our” including our brothers and sisters in Christ.
With the key in the ignition it is time to turn it on and fire up the engine as we proclaim “Hallowed be Your name…” (Matt.6:9; Luke 11:2) At this point we feel and hear the power as we are completely absorbed with the holiness of His name and all the benefits of it! We might just sit in this place for a while before we can move; just listening to the sound of His voice as we declare His holy name! There is no rush! Spend time shouting about His holiness!
Next, we put our prayer vehicle in gear by saying “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt.6:10; Luke 11:2) Now we are ready to move forward according to His will not our own. This will probably lead us into dimensions of God we cannot fathom outside the presence of the King. Accelerating with Him, according to His will is…well… quite heavenly!
Once we get it in gear and have explored His will we begin to drive home our prayers as we say “Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” (Matt.6:11-12; Luke 11:3-4) Now we are praying by saying all the things we know our Father provides for us every day of our lives and also where we confess, repent, and receive the forgiveness He provided through His Son Jesus Christ. Notice we are placing a demand on God according to His will. We are not begging or pleading with Him. Why? Because we submit to Him, to His holiness, acknowledging Him as Father, fully aware of His presence and power. We can pray no other way than to pray His Word. And this brings Him the ultimate glory! This part can take us many miles in our prayer vehicle so enjoy the journey!
When we are done receiving, forgiving, and being forgiven, we say, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:13; Luke 11:4). We sense at this point that we are slowing down, being careful and alert to all that is going on around us, obstacles in life we must steer clear of, things that want to cause accidents and death. We ask God to safely bring us through life, and the safest place to be is in prayer.
Finally we proclaim, “For Yours is the kingdom” (Matt. 6:13) which puts our prayer vehicle in park as we once again focus our thoughts and eyes on our Father and His kingdom reign in our lives. Then we turn the engine off by saying “And the power, and the glory, forever, and ever.” (Matt.6:13) What a glorious declaration as we bring this prayer journey to a conclusion. All that is left is to remove the key and say “Amen.” (Matt.6:13) Of course, we will use the key many times in any given day so we don’t want to lose it or put it away.
It should be noted that theologians do not believe Jesus said the final petition in the original text. “For Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever, and ever, Amen.” Whether He did or didn’t say these exact words, we know His Word is inspired, inerrant, and infallible. If these last words are not a direct translation of what Jesus said, no problem – Just keep our prayer engines running non-stop. We don’t have to slow down, put our prayers in park, turn the engine off, or remove the key from the ignition. We can just keep going and growing in our prayer vehicles, continuing to remember our Father in heaven, giving Him the honor and glory due His holiness, and driving home our prayers as we grow deeper in love with our God who cares and wants to talk with us!
Soooo…..what do you think about prayer now? Still want to debate, defend, or explain prayer our way? I sure don’t! I will just take Jesus at His Word and when I pray, I will say as Jesus said “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name; Your kingdom come; Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil; for Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Each of these places in prayer yield much more than I included here – That is why we pray – Holy Spirit will take us on a ride and we will grow in our relationship with Him when we pray and say these words and so much more! Lord, teach us to pray! All the time, in all ways, in all places! Let’s talk to God today and every day!