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Lord, Teach Us to Pray


During this Year of Faith, we will blog reflections and stories to accompany you on your faith journey.
 
Who among us has never prayed? Probably not a one! Whether it’s “Thank you, God!” when there’s good news or “God, help me!” when there’s bad news, or a feeling of gratitude that enters our hearts, or a yearning to be close to God, we all have prayed.
 
Yet so often I hear, “I wish I knew how to pray,” “I wish I could really pray,” “What is prayer all about?” or “I used to pray, but I gave up because nothing happened.” Just last night I received a phone call from someone I had prayed with over the phone. The person put a relative on the phone with me asking if I would help. The relative said, “I am having a hard time, and I prayed to Jesus for days, and nothing happened.”
 
We are not alone in these feelings. We have only to read the Scriptures to see that we are in very good company! Remember Job? He was a good person, yet he endured severe trials, and perhaps the worst was his friends’ attitude, “Aw, come on Job, you know you had to do something wrong to get yourself into all this trouble!” Even the disciples, those closest to Jesus said, “Teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”
 
Jesus answered their request, and he answers ours, when he said, “When you pray, pray like this: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name…” The words we know so well.
 
Jesus gives the disciples two gifts with this prayer. The first gift is a “formula,” a guide, they can use when the words fail them. Just repeating Jesus’ words is a reminder of him, and whenever they are in union with him, they will be praying. The second gift is the “attitude” for prayer.
 
Our problem with praying, at times, is that we begin with the “formula” and end with the “formula” instead of beginning with the attitude. We start off with “God, help me. I need this,” “My neighbor needs to be healed,” “The world needs peace,” or “Our church needs a new pastor…” These are all good petitions, all prayers that we need to offer. But what if we started off instead with “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name,” with an attitude of awe, wonder, and praise.
 
“Your kingdom come!” Welcome, Lord, into my life. I welcome your reign over me and over all those whom I love.
 
“Give us this day our daily bread…” I am weak, and I can’t do it without you. I depend on you. I trust you to be there for me, day by day. I am willing to wait, day by day.
 
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Have mercy on me, Lord, and help me to have mercy on others.
 
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” I am weak and frail, but you are powerful to save me.
 
“For the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory are yours…” Praise and thanks to you O God: you are the creator, you are the Lord, you are the mighty and just one!
 
Then, perhaps we might see our needs in a slightly different light. Perhaps we might feel a little calmer. Perhaps we might be moved to find a solution. Perhaps we might try to make peace with another.
 
Next time you go to pray, just try to have the attitude. We find it throughout the Bible, e.g. Psalm 139:
 
Marvelous to me are your works.
How profound are your thoughts O my God.
Even if I could count them, they would outnumber the sands of the sea and the stars of the sky

 
Revelation 22:20: Come, Lord Jesus
 
John 6: Lord, to whom shall we go?
 
Let the words of Scripture carry you into the attitude of prayer, and when you have entered the attitude, you will find yourself praying. The attitude of prayer—recognizing that God is all powerful, and that weak as we are, God chose to create us in the divine image and gift us with great love and mercy—is the attitude that underlies every kind of prayer from deep silent prayer to boisterous hymns of praise, from contemplating a passage in Scripture to speaking in tongues, from our desperate cries of distress to the “Glory, halleluiah!” of celebration.
 
It is this attitude that helps us be faithful to prayer when it seems that God is far away, that God isn’t listening, that we are not getting any answers. An important thing to remember is that prayer does not change God, prayer changes us. Prayer helps us to see where God is leading us, how we can find solutions to our problems, how we can be better Christians. Prayer allows us to accept God’s gifts of courage in face of difficulty, peace in the midst of trial, gratitude for all we have received.
 
For more reflections on how to pray, please check out our audio podcasts on prayer:

 
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