A friend whom I know from our church wrote me a letter and asked a question that many people ask. Here’s what he wrote: This may seem like a strange question to you, having being brought up in a Christian home, but to me, and I think many others, it poses as a real speed bump on my life pathway. My question is simply, “How do you pray?”
For the past few years that I have been attending Sunday church services, I’ve wanted to know, but at first I was too overwhelmed by my new relationship with God to even think about how to strategize a conversation. Then before I knew it, I’d been around the church for two years and was too embarrassed to admit that I still didn’t know how to pray. Because of my ongoing ignorance, I’ve come to realize that I avoid talking with God.
I feel like a little kid being expected to talk with a big shot movie star I just can’t seem to find the right words! Can you help?
Here’s what I answered him:
Your question is a good one, and asked by more people than you’d think. It reminds me of something that happened to me way back when our church was just taking its first baby steps. There were about fifteen of us adults and about the same number of children. Because we didn’t have any Sunday school teachers, I asked every one of the fifteen parents that had been coming for three weeks or longer to be teachers and helpers. After all, it was their kids who needed teaching.
At a small training meeting held in my neighbors’ home, I began by asking one of the dads to pray. I simply expected him to thank God for the group and bless our conversation, but he responded, “Gee Barry, I’ve never prayed in a group before, I don’t think I can do that!”
Like you said, I’d been brought up in a church so I’d assumed that everybody knew how to pray, but so as not to embarrass my friend, I quickly responded “That’s OK Bill,” then turning to another guy I said, “John you go ahead and pray” “I’m not sure how to pray either, Barry!” Then before I could speak again, another person interrupted and said, “Barry, I don’t think any of us know how to pray!”
And that was our first team of Sunday school teachers!
Prayer has to begin with a relationship.
Imagine that you and your spouse were sitting down together for breakfast. Over bacon and eggs and toast, you chat about the day that lays ahead for each of you. Then, you pour a second cup of coffee and talk about the kids, your work and the weekend just ahead. That’s the way that I approach prayer It begins with a loving relationship between Father God (He actually refers to Himself as Abba or Papa, which is a very intimate name) and yourself. God loves you and accepts you just the way you are. You do the same for your spouse and your children – you take them as they are! It doesn’t matter how pious the language that you use is. Forget the “Thee’s” and “Thous” and simply think of God as your Father or Papa. I usually pray while driving with God in my car or while going for a walk with Him. Remember that He’s always with us, wherever we are!
There’s an expression that King David used which explains how we should begin our prayers. He wrote: “We enter His gates with thanksgiving…”Jesus did the same thing when He was teaching His disciples how to pray. He began with “Father”, and then moved to “Holy is your Name” He was saying, “Father, you are the best. You are the source of wholeness, health and happiness. Everything flows from your throne.” You might begin your conversation with God by thanking Him for your breath, your healthy, family, our beautiful world, or His love and acceptance. That’s why I love to pray while I walk. I can see dozens of things I am thankful for – my hands, feet, clothes, the golden maple leaves, blue sky, rain, our homes, freedom and peace.
After a few minutes of thank filled conversation, you will feel aligned with God. Thanks does that – it puts us into a harmonious relationship with the person to whom we are addressing our thoughtful gratitude.
We’ll pick up the prayer next week.
Originally published in the Tri-City News newspaper in Barry Buzza’s “Pastor’s Perspective” column.
For a listing of Pastor Barry’s books visit Over The Wall Ministries.