How We Talk to God
In some ways, prayer is rather intuitive. We talk to God. God hears us. That’s prayer. And in some ways, we’re all pray-ers. Most of us are accustomed to petitioning God when stuck between a particular rock and knobby hard place. All good Christians know they must give the “food prayer.” Goodness, even the most ungodly human being may cry out to God in a moment of panicked distress. It seems to be a ready reaction, built-in to the human psyche.
And more could be said on that, but not here. I am more interested in the normative question: what should prayer be? That is, how should we pray?
“How? What does it matter how?” someone may ask. After all, if prayer is our talking to God, who is all-knowing and all-seeing, then why care about delivery method?
In Luke 11, the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray. No doubt we scoff (just a little?) at their childish notion. After all, who needs a script? Don’t they know that God hears them just as they are? Are they really that narrow?
Except – I think they were on to something. Perhaps our snickering reveals more about us than about them.
When we pray, we make certain assumptions – many of which are right. For example, we assume that God exists. We assume that God is interested in hearing from us. We assume that God can hear us, and is able to respond to us. We may also assume that the words we use are less important than the intention of our hearts. Or that the tone of our prayer is irrelevant to the function of the prayer.
Prayer, laden with assumptions. But – and here’s the tricky bit – how do we see these (often hidden) assumptions? And how do we know if they are correct? What if they are wrong? Does that make a difference? If so, how do we correct those assumptions? How should we think about prayer?
So many questions! And that’s good. Because it is only when, like so many buttons from a jar, we empty our confident, unquestioned assumptions onto the table and begin sorting, that we can receive what Jesus says next.
You see, the disciples were not moronic simpletons who couldn’t find their way out of a paper bag. They realized how small and uninformed they were. And so are we. It’s just that we don’t see it.
It’s been said that the way we talk about God reveals what we believe about God. Or something to that effect. I believe the same is true about prayer. How we talk to God matters, because it exposes the assumptions underneath the surface.
And if prayer is more than cathartic soliloquy – and say, instead, a breathtaking dialogue with our Maker – then how we pray matters.
“Teach us to pray.” And what better Teacher do we have than the Word Himself? Over the next few posts, I intend to unpack His response, line by line. Because it is an anchor. It is beautiful. And it will teach us to pray.