Our text(s) this week comes from Luke 11.
The disciples ask Christ to teach them how to pray and Christ gives a model to pray. It becomes known as the Jesus prayer, the Lord’s prayer, and the Our Father prayer. It is:
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hollowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those you trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
This last week my family and I were on an Alaskan cruise and the tour guides in the different ports of call often shared the most common questions that they are asked, which seemed to be ‘how are the winters in Alaska’.
But it got me thinking about the most common question that I, as a religious leader, hear; that is the question ‘how do you pray’.
Prayer is universal. It is a spiritual practice that is not confined by denomination. It not even confined by world religion as all world religions utilize it. So, why are recent studies showing that people are not feeling spiritually fulfilled in prayer?
My theory is that it has to do with the prayers that we are praying. And I think there are four common types of prayers.
The first is the short prayer, the quick prayer, the one that we are sitting in our car and we holler out to God and the universe “Lord, please don’t let me be late”. It is not really spiritually connecting us.
The second is ‘showboating’ prayers. Jesus warns us to be careful of the hypocrites that stand in front of the synagogues in their long robes and saying their long prayers. These are the prayers that are not necessarily meant for the people or for the praise of God, but rather to prove how good of a prayer the prayer is. This doesn’t really serve the people or the one praying.
The third kind is repetitive prayers and this gets utilized in both our personal lives and our institutional life. For example, my evening prayer at night is very repetitive. It is the same pattern, its the same formula, often similar words, and I am often praying for similar things. In the Church, we have the prayers of intercession in worship, which follow a similar pattern although the language may change from week to week. We also have the Lord’s prayer.
But the Lord’s prayer was not necessarily meant to be a word by word prayer to recite, but rather to teach us the things for which we should be praying. These can be remembered by the 5 Ps.
The first is PRAISE [our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be your name]. May we keep God’s name holy. Give God the praise that God deserves.
Two, PURPOSE [your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven]. Our purpose is to love and to serve one another. It is to take that kingdom of God that we get glimpses of because its here now, and its near, but yet it is not fulfilled. It is our job to help bring it into fulfillment.
Three is PROVISION [give us this day our daily bread]. Give us the things that we need. We need shelter and food and clothing and good weather, family, friends, support; the things that we need.
Fourth, PARDON [forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us]. Not only do we need to be forgiven for our own short comings, but we also need to be taught how to forgive one another.
And five, PROTECTION [lead us not into temptation but deliver me from evil]. Lord, keep us on the path that we are called to be on.
And yet, I think the fourth kind of prayer is the most powerful [i.e. most spiritually fulfilling] of them all and that is the deep, heart-felt meditative prayer. The prayer that we sit with. Prayer is talking to God and meditation is listening to God. And in this we have a conversation with God. Sometimes our words cannot communicate what we want to, but God knows the sighs of our heart.
And when I think about prayer, there is a song that comes to mind. It was wrote by and performed by Jon Bon Jovi. It was also performed by Chris LeDoux, which is where I heard it. Its called ‘Bang a Drum’. And the first verse and chorus goes as such:
I went to see the preacher to teach me how to pray.
He looked at me and smiled then the preacher turned away.
He said if you want to tell him something you ain’t got to fold your hands
say it with your heart and your soul, believe it and I’ll say Amen.
Bang a drum for the sinners, bang a drum for the sins.
Bang a drum for the losers, and those who win.
Bang a drum, bang it loudly, or as soft as you need.
Bang a drum for yourself, son, and bang a drum for me.
Ultimately, it comes down to this: in prayer, say it with your heart, your soul, believe it, and say Amen. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 11: 1-13.
Originally Peached on 24 July 2016.