“Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1b (CEB)
Apparently, John the Baptist taught his disciples to pray and fast, so the followers of Jesus wanted to learn to pray (other scripture references show that there were times when they didn’t fast). We can also gather that, because Jesus prayed a lot, he set an example for them, so they wanted to know what to say and how to pray. Maybe they just didn’t know what was the proper procedure.
Well, is there a proper procedure? The first thing Jesus includes as he teaches them the Lord’s prayer, is to say, “Our Father.” This isn’t a distant God who is unreachable, but one who interacts with us as human beings like a heavenly parent. We can have a relationship with God that reflects our love for God and God’s love for us. Our words, according to the Lord’s Prayer recognize God as provider, care giver, forgiver, and guide in our lives.
So, to go back to my original question: “Is there a proper procedure?” I always thought there had to be. Jesus gave the Lord’s Prayer as an example, but I had other things to pray about. Years ago someone told me about using the acronym ACTS: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. We offer prayer of adoration and praise to God. We confess our sins and ask for forgiveness. We offer thanksgiving for all God has given us, and we ask for help concerning whatever it is we are dealing with in our lives.
Using ACTS is helpful at times, but is it the only way? I don’t think so. Norman Vincent Peale wrote a book about “prayerizing” (The Power of Positive Thinking) your life, which means that we pray all day long, every day, in whatever circumstance we find ourselves. In other words, we talk to God whenever, wherever, whatever. That has been a large part of my faith journey because it reminds me that, like the Lord’s Prayer, God is my heavenly parent who wants what’s best for me, is there to support and inspire me, and helps me to work through things that come up in the day.
Brother Lawrence talked about working to see God in every moment of every day. He admitted that it’s impossible for us to do that, but it is a practice that we can begin so that we recognize God in even the most mundane tasks. For many, prayer can be most effective when offered in the moment. Anne Lamott (Traveling Mercies) says that the two most effective prayers are, “Help me, help me, help me” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” Apparently she added later the one word prayer, “Wow!”
So how will you pray? When will you pray? Just talk to God. If nothing else, say “The Lord’s Prayer.” And remember, “the Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8:26) and prays for us even when we have no words. If you really need words, there are lots and lots of prayer sites on the Internet. Make a booklet! Or buy a book! Prayer is talking with God – communicating with God, and then remembering to listen.
In what ways will you make prayer a continuous part of your life?
How will you build variety in the way you pray?
When have you experienced a powerful answer to prayer?