Prayer is not an acquired art but is instinctive. We pray for help when life is just too much for us and, interestingly enough, pray with our whole being that we be heard – particularly when we are desperate and anxious.
Are there any rules? Strictly speaking there aren’t. We do not have to be great scholars to speak with the unseen Spirit that is our Father. St Paul described the Spirit in these words:
God, in whom we live and move and have our being.
So, just as we are surrounded by wireless and TV waves and have to tune in to make use of them so we have to tune into God, the Spirit, through prayer. And that word “prayer” simply means talking to Him.
On the other hand, there are some aspects that we should think about. One has to face up to what Martin Luther said, ‘Don’t lie to God.’ What’s the point? If there is something we should do and we don’t, isn’t the really straightforward thing to do is to pray for the desire to be put in to our hearts? Another could be the need to be definite. For example, it is not enough in our private prayers to say we have been sinful. We must face up to what sins we have committed. As God said to Job, “… I will demand of you and you will answer.” So simply say what it is that you have done wrong and ask for forgiveness.- and mean it.
Then, too, we have to remember that the whole family of human beings is, in effect, the family of God and we have to live in harmony with the rest of the family and that’s where the word “love “comes in – in this case meaning ” being considerate of,” and that means simply being ”kind”.
Life is like a picture at the cinema. We come in with the picture well on (when we are born) and leave before it is finished (when we die). Hence God’s purposes – and sometimes ours – are best served when our particular prayers are not answered. The action has already begun so can we really expect it to be changed when it is in full flight? What best suits everybody seems to be the rule that applies and still allows for answers in particular situations. Remember, the cup of suffering was not taken away from Jesus when He prayed in Gethsemane.
Prayer is not a means of escape but a means by which we are enabled to overcome and handle matters in all situations in life – overcoming in the sense of never being without peace within; peace which passes all human understanding and never being without the feeling of being in touch with God. And the last way we benefit is to have what we call Grace, a generosity of attitude and spirit which enables us to say, ‘Father, forgive them they know not what they do.’
If you are having trouble praying try talking to God as if He is sitting opposite you.
– Adapted from and with acknowledgements to William Barclay.
If you wish, by all means talk to your minister or priest about anything in the above article. (SM)