“Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1b “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” Luke 11:9-10 (NRSV)
I sometimes wonder if we have made praying too hard for ourselves. Jesus’ disciples wanted to learn how to pray. I think we all want to pray in the right way, but what IS the “right” way? Isn’t it different for all of us?
We have more formal corporate type prayers in worship, meetings, Bible Study, and other group gatherings, but except for praying the Lord’s Prayer together or other well-known prayers, I don’t think there is anything set in place as for the process of praying. Jesus often said to pray. So that’s where we begin with this exploration.
Maybe what puzzles and worries many of us can be found in the Luke 11:9-10 verses. According to these passages, Jesus says to go ahead and pray because whatever we ask for, seek, or knock on the door to see will be ours. Hmmm. I know a lot of prayers when I didn’t get what I wanted or expected.
Of course, that’s where the “rub” is located. Nowhere does it say that we get what WE want or expect, only that our prayers will be answered. Maybe the content of our prayers needs to have some serious scrutiny. Maybe we ask, as Jesus did in the Lord’s Prayer, for God’s will to be done. That’s what so many of us forget – it’s GOD’s will – what God knows is best for us that is done. We may not always get what we want or expect, but we always get what we NEED.
When we go to God with a grocery list of what we want, we are working out of our own ideas, thoughts and desires. While God certainly can see that many of the things we pray for are things we can and will have, there are other things that we really don’t need.
Intercessory prayer is another struggle. When we pray for others who are sick, dying, hurt, in need and those prayers don’t seem to be answered, what then? Praying for others is often opening ourselves to ways in which we can care for them, minister to them, help them to find strength in times of trouble. Even when we don’t know the person, we open ourselves to God’s direction and guidance when we pray for them. Our prayers keep the communication open and help us to stay focused on God.
Praying puts us in line with God and opens our minds and hearts to growth, connection with God and others, and acceptance when we have answers to prayer that we don’t like. When we ask, we will receive – in some way or another. When we seek God, we will surely find God. When we knock, God will open the door – maybe not always in the way we expect, but surely in the way that will give us help and direction.
When we pray, we don’t pray so that it’s all about us, but all about God. Not easy. The Holy Spirit can help us, inspire us, and guide us. When Jesus went off by himself to pray, he spent time reconnecting with God’s will – God’s direction – God’s guidance. His strength came in that connection. That’s what prayer can do for us, too.
God wants what is good for us, and when we can accept that not everything is going to happen the way we want it to, we will be able to let go of our grocery list and listen so that we can align our hearts and minds with God’s. That happens when we pray – standing, sitting, kneeling, lying down, driving, walking, or in whatever way works for us, and we don’t need any formula in order to get the prayer across to God.
Anne Lamott says her favorite prayers are “Help me; help me; help me” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” What’s yours?