So here we are, in our semi-apocalyptic world of COVID-19-induced self-isolation and work-at-home situations.
The work-at-home part can be awesome. But the fear the isolation can foster is not. So how do we, as Christ-followers, cope with new and frightening situations? We pray. But sometimes it’s all so surreal we don’t know how to pray. Someone new to Christianity might not have any idea how to do more than the most basic “thank you for this food” or “please keep us safe” kind of prayer.
Prayer is the subject my Sunday school class at Westminster Presbyterian was just starting to explore before the Big Lock-Down started. We only got a couple weeks into it but it started me thinking…always dangerous. We heard a few beautiful Puritan prayers from a book someone had. And sometimes someone else can have just the right words for your situation.
But how do you pray? Is there a right way and a wrong way to pray? If I pray wrong will God not hear me? To me the questions sounded odd, but I grew up in a Christian home and never had a time when I didn’t believe. To someone who came to faith later than me, however, those could be really valid questions.
For me, I’ve been through growth stages. When I was young I prayed at bedtime with my parents. As a tween-ager, mostly still just bedtime. Maybe in Sunday school. As a teen, again with the bedtime plus whenever I was in trouble. Gradually I evolved, though. As a young adult I tried to do what so many “righteous” people told me I should do and spend at least an hour in prayer with my Bible and a journal. I tended to fall asleep while going through the list of people and things I was “supposed” to pray for. Turns out I really can’t pray for extended periods. I lose focus. So for me my prayer life is an all-day conversation with God. When someone pops into my head I pray for them. When someone says please pray for so-and-so I pray right then so I don’t forget. I talk to Him and tell Him things He already knows like how stressed I am, how my heart has broken because a fur-baby passed away, how angry I am that my Mom has lost almost every memory she ever had. And I try also to remember to thank Him for the beautiful sunrise He painted, and the love I had with that fur-baby I lost, and the memories I have of Mom that I can keep even though she can’t.
If you really want to know how to pray, as in all things, go back to the Bible. Jesus taught us to pray in scripture. There are two very slightly different versions, one in Matthew 6:9-13 and one in Luke 11:2-4. This is called The Lord’s Prayer. The one we usually recite is a version that was adapted by the early Christian communities and is a combination of the two, plus a final sentence giving glory to God. That last sentence is called a doxology.
In both passages Jesus teaches us the steps to praying:
1.Call upon your Heavenly Father, and acknowledge and praise His holiness, and your longing for His Kingdom
2.Acknowledge that He is in control and His will rules Heaven and Earth
3.Ask for what you need for today…”our daily bread” (remember what happened to the manna when the Israelites tried to gather more than what they needed that day? Yuck.)
4.Ask forgiveness for your sins, and forgive those who have hurt you
5.Ask for strength to resist temptation, and protection from the Enemy’s attacks on you
The last line, the doxology, gives glory to God.
Here is the model. I learned it a little King James-ish so that’s how I’ll write it. If it’s too formal for you look it up in your NIV or ESV. For now, how about reading it with me:
Our Father, which art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
This YouTube video is a clip from the movie Because You’re Mine (I think). Mario Lanza sings a really beautiful version of The Lord’s Prayer.