Today we have the first in a series of posts on How to Pray from Jessica Bowman. She writes a delightful blog at Bohemian Bowmans.
How to Pray – part I
by Jessica Bowman
I find it impossible to address how we should pray, without wanting to talk about all the ways we shouldn’t pray. I don’t feel too bad though, because apparently Jesus dealt with the same issue. So what does the bible say about prayer? What is prayer? And how should we do it?
First of all I just want to get this out there: Prayer is communicating with and listening to God.
It’s that simple. So why have we made it so complicated?
Problem Number 1: Rote Babblings.
Jesus said, “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him.”
Jesus clearly told us not to babble and not to repeat. But walk into any group of believers, whether it’s in a “church” service or small group setting and what will you hear? You can pretty much hand the pray-er an adlibs sheet and let them fill in the blanks, because it’s going to sound like every prayer that they’ve ever prayed in that group.
Oh ______________ (adoring praise adjectives) Lord, we come before you today _______________(humble asking words) of __________ (a word or phrase that means forgiveness) for our many sins. We thank you for __________________ (anything—noun or verb). We pray that you will please __________________(acceptable action of God’s), __________(acceptable action of God’s), and ______________(acceptable action of God’s). And we pray that you will please be with _________ (a sick person’s name), who is sick. And we pray for _________(a troubled person’s name), who is dealing with ____________(a personal issue—but not too personal!), we pray that you will let them know __________ (an attribute of the nature of God). We pray for you to please be with our government, our troops, our President, and our school teachers. All of this we ask in the __________ (adoring praise adjectives) name of your _____________ (adoring praise adjectives) son Jesus. Amen.
Why do we pray like this when we gather? Because we’ve seen other people do it. Plain and simple.
You want to know a secret? I think we pray too much as a gathering. We do it because we feel like we have to, because all the other people we’ve been around have done it. We pray at the beginning of class and the end of class. We pray when we begin the service, after a couple of songs, after all the songs, before the preaching, after the preaching, during the “invitation”, and one last time before we’re “released” from the “service”.
Is all of that necessary? Is it biblical? Is it doing anything?
Disclaimer: I think we should pray together and not just alone. I believe that the early church prayed together because we have evidence of it in our Bible. But when they gathered to pray, it was always with a single-minded focus. Because they were waiting on the Holy Spirit, or because they desired the boldness of the Holy Spirit, or because Peter was in jail or something, you know? Not because they had just entered a room or were about to exit a room.
Problem Number 2: Prayer Language
As Husband once said, “Ask any 50 year old Georgian to pray and suddenly he’s from Elizabethen England.”
“Dear sweet gracious heavenly father. We come to thee tonight…” *insert adlib prayer here*
And, again, because it’s the only thing we’ve see done, we think that must be what a truly spiritually mature soul must sound like when they speak with our most sweet gracious and heavenly Father. So we’re terrified of being “called on” to pray because we just know that we’d never “get it right” and that our prayer wouldn’t be long enough or something.
Jesus said keep it simple, because God already knows what you need. Solomon said something similar one time. And neither of them said “thee” or “thy”.
Part two will be posted next month.