How to Pray

Photo: Bill Selak

Peace be with you.

Our sermon on Sunday centered around Luke 11 where Jesus is giving the disciples a lesson in prayer.  Jesus gives an example showing us why we should be persistent (shamelessly audacious, even) in prayer.  In my world, this is how the example would look…

You run out of sugar in the middle of the night while you are up baking your daughter’s birthday cake for the brunch you’re hosting in the morning.  Your husband isn’t home to go to the 24-hour CVS.  You can’t wait for him to come home or you’ll never finish baking and decorating the cake in time for the party. Even though you don’t want to, and you’re super embarrassed…. you go knock on your neighbor’s door for a cup of sugar. 

Your neighbor looks at you like you’re insane (that’s logical).  It’s 2 AM, I’m sleeping, everyone is in bed.  Go home! Your neighbor slams the door in your face.

You’re discouraged. But you really (I mean really) need that cup of sugar.  So you keep knocking.  Shamelessly. Persistently. Again and again and… the door opens, a bag of sugar is shoved at your chest, the door is slammed in your face (again). Your neighbor didn’t give you the sugar just because you’re friends.  You got the sugar because of your persistence.

That’s how Jesus is telling the disciples to pray.  That is how Jesus, through the Word, tells us that we should pray.  We’ve read before that we should pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). We need to be PERSISTENT. The NIV translation says we should have “shameless audacity.” What a strong instruction.  Without ceasing and with shameless audacity.

I don’t do that.  I don’t come close.  Yes, I pray every day. I pray before meals. Usually before bedtime.  But I am not bold. My prayers cease.  A new goal I’ve set is to get closer to this ideal.  Praying about something should not be my last resort.  Before I start analyzing, thinking through things, and problem solving, I need to remember to pray.  There is nothing more productive that we can do as Christians than to pray.

I also don’t love the way that I pray.  I tend to pray one of two ways depending on the day.  Sometimes I pray with the “prayer words” that many use when they pray in public.

  • “God I come to you humbly,…”
  • “Father God, your blessings be upon us…”
  • “Lord, we just ask that you come into this place. Right now, Lord.”

I love the elegance and the grace of phrases like these.  I believe the in the meaning behind them. But, when I try and use them, personally, I don’t feel that I’m being authentic. Praying prettily does not work for me.

Other times, I’m at the opposite side of the spectrum.  I feel as if I’m not giving enough reverence.  I’m not making it quite special enough.  How do I make my prayers special, personal, and Michelle-like at the same time?

I’m trying out a new strategy.  I’m going to write down prayers. In my language. And try to incorporate them into my daily routine.  I’d like to share my version of the Lord’s prayer…

My Heavenly Father. Your name is blessed, holy, and respected more than any other. Your will is accomplished here on earth just as it is in heaven. Please continue to give us, your children, everything we need to survive, just as you always do.  Please forgive us when we do wrong and help us to forgive others when they do wrong. Please give us the power to resist temptations and to steer clear from evil and sin. Everything we are is because of You. Everything we have is because of You. Please continue to bless us and thank you again for all of the blessings we’ve already been given. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

As many times as I have prayed this prayer, I have not been able to connect to the words in a way that I would like. I hope this will change that.