He said to them, “When you pray, say…”

Regardless of where we met Him, lining up towards the front as the Pope requests or sitting reverently in our seats. When communion is passed around and the piano plays, the congregation falls silent. The time of prayer and meditation was the quietest moment in church, when the children would duck their heads or fiddle with toys in their fingers, and each member in their own seat would settle into some form of submission, to open themselves to His word. We block ourselves off from the world for a five minute interval and even when the music stops, we hang onto that space where He was everything just a little longer. Moments of prayer like these are, for many of us, the purest communication we’ll have with Him all week. [1]
As with anything, we want biblical examples. We find godly men and women turning to ask Him for guidance, for help in times of desperation. Over the many times that Jesus prayed throughout His life, we only find a few are recorded as in Luke 11, with respect to the everyday talk-with-God attitude that He took with it. Prayer, during this period, happened on street corners, markets, any public place, loving to be seen by the people in their faith. God asked us to take it instead into our homes and our hearts, to pray to Him unseen, for He is unseen. [2] Jesus had been praying, not in some show stopping way, but so personally and quietly that they had to ask Him what He’d even been saying. He, of course, responded with something short and meaningful, always happy to teach the curious. [3] Prayer is meant to be a personal conversation between you and your Father.
Within the Lord’s prayer he has given us a marvelous example. He demonstrated giving honor and reverence the Father, recognizing His plan for us and desiring this first and foremost, acknowledging how sin separated us, and asking for His assistance with all of our needs. He asked us to use this as a guide to prayer, not to restrict us, but as a freedom from reciting verses or repeating things others have said, finding our own voice in Him. [4] David, God’s own heart[5, 6], prayed to Him many different ways throughout the Psalms, asking for mercy and to be washed clean. He speaks to Him in reverence and humility, in praise and in repentance, and asks for His mercy. [7] David, himself, recognized each of these principles and still made it his own, to communicate with his Father. When Peter and John called out to the Lord to ask for for boldness and the hands to heal and perform works in His name to bring the people together, He honored their request. The place was filled with the Holy Spirit, and they prayed with Jesus’ principles, applied to the sincerity of the moment and circumstances. [8] Jacob before he wrestles with God prays for the Lord’s help to bring his brother to Him peacefully. He speaks in reverence of the power God holds, asking Him to save his family and the lineage that has been promised to him. Jacob, after asking for help, takes his own actions of humility to his brother and sends him gifts to appease him, hoping to earn his mercy as he has asked the same of God. [9] Jonah, who failed miserably to follow God’s plan when it was asked of him, even praying at the bottom of the water, asked for mercy, recognizing his sin and the power that God had over him. [10] All of these great men that followed God’s word, that were put to use by Him have prayed in many different ways, always with regard to Jesus’ instruction, at times before those instructions were given. God has requested of us that we pray with regard to these instructions, not to restrain what we ask of Him, but to remember who He is and how we may speak with Him, at any time in our life. The hours of worship will not save us, but a single sincere prayer may, because that is what he has asked of His children. [11]
As always, Jesus followed this immediately with parables; ways to make a point hit home without making us defensive. He tells us that even a friend will help us if we beg, but that God never required us to beg, only to ask, and we will receive His answer. [12] Immediately following He tells us that even though we are evil, we know to do right by those seeking help. We answer requests that our children and loved ones have, so too God will always provide for us. Some interpretations consider God to be both the earthly friend and the Heavenly Father, the one who must be begged into action and the God who provides lovingly. However, He follows this with ask and you shall receive, clarifying, saying that everyone may ask and receive. Begging is for seeking things from corruptible men. We are all welcome to this reward system: ask and you shall receive. [12] He may answer in ways that differ from our plans, but He will always answer those that come with the right attitude and motivations. [13] If we have to beg for the things that we need, then effort alone can change God’s mind, showing His grasp of the entire situation is dependent on our input. God’s plan, His mercy, His love, none of this has ever been hinged on our input, else we were doomed before we started. [14]
Our prayers are not without purpose; if we pray to him and ask for his help, He will answer us. [15] We are His children, in every single aspect. Jesus reminded us of this to bring us back to the core of love and parenting. When my son comes to me with a question or a request, I never send him away or ignore him. A good father, as we see in God, must listen to his children at all times and provide for them without question. I may have as a child turned into a thespian and applied the waterworks to try and convince my own father that a want was really a need, but I never wondered if he would give me what I actually needed. Good parents in the Lord’s eyes will care for their children in every possible way, as He has done for us. I am His child, and without knowing the meaning of it all, I am entitled to so much. That’s the example Jesus focuses on with His discussion on prayer. In many instances churches are asking for more outward devotion, there can be pressure to spend hours a day and every waking moment with Him, to set aside the activities of daily living to submit ourselves to worship and prayer. “If you have time for ____ then you have time to give God more time.” God asked us to pray to Him with thanks, with love, with help, with questions, but never with duty. [16] He wants only our sincerity, with us every day and every moment, regardless of where we are in our walk with Him. [17] Talk to Him: in the middle of night when you can’t sleep, call for your Father, when driving to work, have that conversation with Him you’ve been trying to wait for your scheduled prayer hour. [18] Wherever we find ourselves, whenever we can, in all things we do, give thanks and let us pray.

[1] Psalm 145:18
[2] Matthew 6:5-6
[3] Luke 11:1-13
[4] Matthew 6:7
[5] 1 Samuel 13:14
[6] Acts. 13:22
[7] Psalm 51
[8] Acts 4:23-31
[9] Genesis 32:9-32
[10] Jonah 2:1-9
[11] Psalm 102:17
[12] Matthew 7:7
[13] James 4:3
[14] Romans 3:22-24
[15] II Chronicles 7:14
[16] I Timothy 2:8
[17] Psalm 100:2

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