I thought it might be a good idea to review the way I pray because I have followed a similar patten now for some years. I believe who we are is how we pray and therefore we all approach prayer in different ways depending on our personality, our upbringing and the life we are leading at the moment.
It wasn’t so long ago I accepted I felt more comfortable just talking to my God rather than reading pre-prepared prayers. I looked at how Jesus used to pray and realised that He would generally go off on His own to talk with His Father.
At the commencement of His discussion with His Father, He would praise and thank Him.
When the disciples asked Jesus how they should pray, Jesus gave them the ‘Our Father’ which, when you transpose today’s words for those used in Jesus’ time, follows that same pattern of greeting and praising the Father before asking the Father to ‘give us’ what we need.
So, I figured if Jesus gave us this prayer, who are we not to use this as our guide. However, while this prayer asks for our individual needs, it doesn’t specify any special needs we might want the Father to consider for others.
In the past, when I have particularly wanted to ‘pray’ for a friend, a family member or a situation I have developed a mental list which I have used in my talk with God.
As part of this review I now realise what a waste of time it is to be trotting out names and situations each time I pray. And even kicking myself when I realise afterwards, I have forgotten someone I have on my list. God doesn’t have to be continually reminded of who and what is on my man-made list. It is at this point I should point out the fact that the Holy Spirit plays a major role in assisting us with our prayer life. Because of our Baptism, the Spirit has an intimate internal contact with our lives, for it is the Spirit that helps us in our weakness and assists us when we pray (Romans 8:26). So, I just leave it to the Holy Spirit to do the negotiating with The Father.
Jesus said, “The Father and I are one” and “You can only come to The Father through me”. So, who am I to argue? By virtue of our Baptism, Jesus lives within each of us and therefore, I don’t have too far to go to ask Jesus to lead me to The Father, or as I often do, ask Him to come with me and I call to the Spirit, “Come Holy Spirit”.
Another thing this review has made me realise is that The Father and the Holy Spirit are well aware of the reason why I specifically want to pray for each individual on my list. While I admit I can feel discouraged when my prayer is not answered in the way I would like it to be, I have learned it is wise not to question The Father’s decision. But one thing I believe is most important is to constantly thank the Father for sending us Jesus because, seriously, I just wonder where we would be if that had not occurred.
I recall when Jesus said to a paralysed man, “Your sins are forgiven” and the Pharisees questioned His authority, his response was, “Which is easier to say, your sins are forgiven or get up and walk” (Luke 5:23). While the Father knows full well what I might want, I feel I should leave it to Him to decide how best to help those for whom I am praying.
I remember how Jesus said, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matt 18:3). When your child cries you often know immediately what is wrong. It may be a hunger cry or a cry that says, I’m tired. Our Father in heaven instinctively knows what I need and hears my cry. It becomes obvious then that If I can be like a little child and just feel safe and secure in His presence, then He will care for all my needs.
My review seems to be simplifying the whole concept of my prayer. Because I realise the Father knows what I am coming to see Him about before I even arrive, It is now very easy for me to just sit at the Father’s feet and know I am there with Him, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. While it might seem simplistic it brings to mind what Jesus said to the disciples: ”Because I live, you also will live….You will know that I am in my Father and you are in me, just as I am in you”. (John 14:20). Just being there in the presence of the Trinity seems to me to be prayer enough.
I find it is easy to forget your daily prayer without having a trigger or prompt so, as we always enjoy two coffees each day, this then is time has become my trigger. When I am making coffee, my back is to the world and while the various actions become automatic, this leaves me time for my mind to be given over to prayer. Other people looking for a prayer trigger might feel cleaning your teeth or making the bed is a daily exercise that might work for them.
I have always relied on the words of Jesus, “Ask and you will receive”. However, recently I realise the lines following this in Matt 7:7 are just as important, “Seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened”. I feel this whole group of 3 phrases refers to my prayer.
It is easy just asking to have your prayers answered and then going about your business knowing that the Father has heard your request. However, when you look at the rest of the above sentence, in my opinion, I should
consider more than just the asking bit. It seems the seeking and knocking requires a certain amount of personal activity. In the Lenten lead up to Easter, we perform some regular activity to remind us of what Jesus went through for us, so I feel I could add to my prayer life if I not only asked for my needs but in addition, offered up something of myself to enhance my request.
My first reaction is to develop what I would call a ‘Mini Monday’ Lenten exercise. Each Monday I could take some personal action that would at least made me aware I was doing something additional to add to my prayers for the week ahead.
A simple example for me would be to give up devouring three of my favourite things each Monday. These are Coffee, Jam and Chocolate. Of course, they can be replaced by tea, vegemite etc. but this little restriction on self would form the basis of being a definite Mini Lent for me each Monday. This would be a personal way of offering up something I like to, in some small way, fulfill the seeking and knocking activity of my prayer.
I know this seems like a simplistic, even child-like approach, to what is really a form of prayerful self-sacrifice. But, it is something different from the norm and for me, a start at what I see as improving my prayer life. If the idea were to catch on, I feel sure others would find more appropriate ways of engaging in ‘Mini Lent Monday’.
I’m Peter Mack and that’s how I feel.