Prayer, in its simplest and most unassuming definition, is communicating with God. Although some branches of Christendom make it appear as if only the professionals know how to do it, it is not what God intended. My first exposure to this misconception occurred when I was discipling a woman who’d immigrated to the United States from the Ukraine. She was a new believer and learning both English and about her new-found faith so we would read the Bible together. One day we read the passage where Jesus taught the disciples the Lord’s Prayer (Mt. 6:9-13; Lk. 11:2-4). I asked her if she prayed. The response was that she did not know how because the priest was supposed to do it. When I asked her who Jesus was teaching how to pray she recognized prayer was meant for everyone who had a relationship with Him. We looked at the prayer and what it entailed and I left thinking I’d done a pretty good job in equipping her for an exciting dialogue with the Lord. When I returned the following week I asked her how her prayer life was doing. “Oh Ann,” she sighed, “I am not so good. I did not get to the church for prayer. I will do better this week.” My heart sank as I realized I’d not explained well enough. We then talked about WHERE prayer can take place. “You can pray anywhere,” I said, “You can pray when you’re washing the dishes after a meal, when you’re sitting at the table with a cup of coffee, when you are walking to work, even when you’re running the vacuum!” And yes, the following week there was a glowing report of all the different places where she’d talked to the Lord.
Let’s look at the components of prayer using the telephone as our example. First, just as the telephone is a way to communicate with others, it is also a way for others to communicate with us. Prayer is not merely a way for us to read off our list of activities and desires to God. Like any good dialogue, prayer requires us to listen for and to God’s response (Mt. 7:7-8). Secondly, there are a number of different kinds of calls we can receive on our phone. Some calls are more formal and business-like such as a confirmation call from your dentist. But others are more personal like calls from friends and family. Though more formal, some liturgical prayers are quite beautiful (Ps. 4; 86) but more often than not our prayers will be personal. We join a host of Biblical people who prayed this way (Gen. 32:9-12; 1 Sam. 2:1-10; 1 Ki. 8:22-30; Job 42:1-6; Dan. 9:1-7; Mt. 15:32-33; Lk. 2:36-38; 3:21-22; 9:28-31; Acts 4:24-31; 7:59-60; 9:40; 16:13. 16, 25 and many more!) and this type of prayer really illustrates the heart of our faith (Mt. 6:5-8; Phil. 1:3-11; Js. 5:16-18). Jesus, in His most personal prayers, addressed God in a familial manner (Mt. 11:25-26; Lk. 10:21; Jn. 11:38-42; 17:1) and instructed us to do this too with respect and reverence (Mt. 6:9). Prayer also covers a multitude of topics, just like a good conversation (as seen in the variety of topics in the list of those who prayed). Sometimes you will initiate the topic and at other times the Lord will introduce one to you. As previously mentioned this aspect of prayer underscores that it is a dialogue, requiring both speaking and listening (Is. 55:3, 6).
When I was a child my mother or father would say “grace” before a meal; a tradition I carried on with my children and they now carry on with theirs. At some point though, our prayers must move from the traditional to the more personal. Jesus’ disciples had seen Him pray on many occasions and in both ways but they understood by observation that His prayers were not like theirs. They were deeper and more personal. So when we recognize that we are ready to engage in that kind of prayer, like the disciples, we must make the same request as they did, “Lord teach us to pray” (Lk. 11:1).
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
https://www.annhlefevre.com; Olivetreeann@mail.com; https://www.linkedin.com/in/annhlefevre; https://www.facebook.com/ann.h.lefevre