When we pray, we really are talking to God. It should sound like a real conversation, because it IS a real conversation. That’s the way our prayers are supposed to be: real, natural, meaningful. That means the words we use, the way we begin and end, and the posture we’re in. These things shouldn’t be automatic or rote. They should be filled with meaning, with conscious significance. Do you ever feel self-conscious about how to pray? Do you wonder if you should close your eyes or say “Amen” at the end of your prayer? Remember there’s nothing wrong with that, but when we do, let’s do it for a reason and with meaning, not just on auto-pilot. We pray not to impress people, but to talk to God. And the words and actions of our prayers should be meaningful, not routine. Jesus has given us a model, a template, for prayer. It’s very well known as “The Lord’s Prayer.” Millions of people know it by heart. Many recite this prayer as a paragraph of empty words, almost without any personal meaning at all. Many don’t even understand it. For some, the Lord’s Prayer is a punishment instead of a prayer, as in, “For your penance, say 30 ‘Our Fathers’.” I imagine that the original intention of that kind of assignment was to get people to meditate on the truths expressed in the Lord’s Prayer. But I think more often people get just about as much out of that as Bart Simpson gets out of writing sentences on the chalkboard. Jesus intended it to be so much more. He didn’t give it to us as a script of what we should pray, but rather as an example of how we should pray. It is a great reminder that God wants us to present our needs to him. Although God already knows of them, presenting our needs verbally to Him brings us to a point of greater vulnerability and dependence. Here are three very practical implications:
1. We should pray persistently. Persistent prayer has a way of showing God we’re serious, increases our desperation for God, and even purifies our prayer life.
2. We should pray specifically. Specific prayers enable us to connect the dots between our prayers and God’s activity in ways that overly broad and vague prayers cannot.
3. We should pray expectantly. Praying expectantly reminds us that our loving Father ultimately has our best interests in mind even when He does not respond the way we want him to.
Questions for further thought:
1. What are some specific needs that you could persistently and expectantly present to God?
Challenge: Try hanging your prayers off this prayer, praying one line of the prayer and then praying for other things that fit under that idea.
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