A conversation or a lecture?
“Call him up and tell him what you want, the line ain’t never busy”
That’s prayer. “Tell him what you want.” It is simply telling God how you feel, there’s no more to it that. But that does not make it easy: Look at this:
Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”
And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.
Prayer is a relationship. I have heard prayer lists described as shopping lists, things that we have to pray for. But here it is more like the relationship with a shopkeeper. Just lists of what we want.
The disciple in Luke 11:1 had seen Jesus praying to his Father and could see something special there, something the disciple didn’t have but wanted. Hence the question.
Jesus’ answer was not what the disciple expected, the reply was that prayer familiar to us all, which we now call The Lord’s Prayer. Jesus told his disciple to pray “Our Father.” They had wanted a formula and they got a Father. An intimate relationship. Something you get by living with someone, knowing them. We are to pray to God as a close family member, not a shopkeeper. You do not have a close relationship with a shopkeeper. (Not unless you are married to the shopkeeper.)
Jesus also told us to pray all the time. Because prayer is the conversation in an intimate relationship you can just chat. Chat about anything, about how you are feeling, about what your hopes and fears are, what makes you laugh. Again it is not like your relationship with your shopkeeper, you might not get things immediately. But do not lose heart, your Father who loves you knows what you need. Trust him.
Just like a couple engaged to be married and living apart, they cannot wait to speak to each other again. So we should be with God, so close that we long to feel his presence again. OK, we’re not that close, that too is something to long for, which is why I like to use Lectio Divina, a meditative way of listening to God. Conversations are two way, some plans are all about what you do, As a new Christian I used PACTS for a time – first preparation, then adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication. It is a good plan and I go back to it from time to time, but all too soon it became a straight jacket preventing me getting closer to God because it was all about what I do. Breaking the habit of rigidity was difficult, so pray sort of dried up except for emergencies. I was not praying but lecturing God.
Now I pray as I read, watch or listen to the news, pray as I walk in the park, and as I have said before, I pray in the bath. It’s a great place away from any disturbances is a bath. When I run out of words I pray in pictures, When God speaks back he uses pictures too. The closer I get to God the more I am aware of how far I have to go, but I don’t worry about that any more. Because prayer is no longer about what I do and is all about God. God wants us to contact him, and prayer stops being a chore and becomes something to long for.
Just call him up, The line ain’t never busy.
1, 2The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.