“Our Father, who art in Heaven…” (Matthew 6:9)
So, you want to pray? Good.
Or, you already pray and something inside you wants to learn to pray better? That’s also good.
Let’s see if we can help the beginner to pray effectively and the “regular customer” to pray with greater insight, stronger faith, and more confidence. But–and this is a biggie–let’s not make this more complicated than it is.
Just do it. The Father wants to hear His children praying.
Don’t be afraid.
Worse, don’t let someone scare you about all this.
Martin Luther used to say he had so much to do that day, he had to pray six hours.
Sheesh! Read that and you feel like tossing in the towel and calling it a day. Who among us has six hours to pray?
Pick up the typical book on prayer and soon you are overcome by the rules and regulations, the advice and steps and lessons, which the author lays out before any of us can pray effectively.
Let’s not do that.
Let’s not get hung up on procedures, postures, timing, wording, or the length of our prayers. While there is much to learn from the Scripture in the matter of communicating with the Heavenly Father, we should never lose the simplicity of it.
A child speaks to the father. The Father speaks to the child.
We speak; He speaks. We tell Him what’s on our heart; we listen to what He says.
In prayer, you and I are children talking to the One who loves us more than we love ourselves. “He loved us and gave Himself for us,” Scripture says.
Don’t let anyone–me or your mother-in-law or some preacher on the radio–complicate prayer to the point that you feel burdened.
There’s almost no way you can do it wrong.
Even the best praying any of us ever do must sound a lot like baby-talk once it arrives in Heaven.
But that’s all right, too.
What parent doesn’t thrill at the first attempts of the beloved child to communicate? We treasure the “ma-mas” and “da-das” and record them in a baby book.
Two assurances in Romans 8 throw surprising light on the business of addressing the Father in prayer.
Romans 8:26 says, “In the same way, the Spirit also helps us in our weakness. For we do not know how to pray as we should. But the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
The Holy Spirit is interceding for us. And look at this. Where it says “the Spirit helps us in our weakness,” the Greek word translated “helps” is synantilambanomai. It’s a compound word that means literally He stands on the other side of our prayers and together with us, lifts them up.
How good is that?
Think of someone helping you make up the bed. They stand on the other side, and your work is cut by two-thirds.
Think of a buddy helping you pull a cross-cut saw. Alone, this is almost impossible. But with a friend on the other end of the saw, working in tandem with you, you get it done.
God does not abandon us to do the work of discipleship. He does not hand us a list of duties and walk away, leaving us to figure out how to do these things.
The Lord is right in there with us. “I will never leave Thee nor forsake Thee,” He says. The Holy Spirit strengthens us, teaches us, comforts us, and perhaps best of all, takes our pitiful efforts and makes them far more than they would be otherwise.
And if that’s not enough, consider this…
Same chapter. Romans 8:34 says, “Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of the Father, who also intercedes for us.”
Got that? Jesus Christ sits in Heaven interceding for us also.
Two of the three members of the Trinity are interceding in Heaven for us.
What, one wonders, must that be like? I haven’t a clue. And unless some reader has been to Heaven and observed first-hand the interworkings of Heaven’s throneroom, I assume no one else does.
Now, if we wanted to do some really bad theology, we could say the Father is outvoted before He even begins since both the Spirit and the Son are on our side. However, Romans 8:31 settles this for us also. “What then shall we say then? If God is for us, who can be against us?”
Stay with me here a minute…
The word “if” in verse 31 means “since God is for us.” For the first 30 verses of Romans 8, the Apostle Paul has been establishing that God is for us. Now, He says, if this is so, that is, since the Heavenly Father is for us, who can be against us? The answer, of course, is that while many people and numerous forces may line up against us, none of it matters. God is on our side.
Nothing else matters when God is for you.
How blessed we are!
Heaven is pulling for us. God the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are all cheering us on.
How good is that?
The enemy attacks us on this very thing. “God is not for you,” says the one Jesus called a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). “God is against you,” he says. “He does not want what’s best for you.” (Some will recall this was the original lie in the Garden of Eden. This is what the serpent told Eve. Genesis 3:1-7.)
In Revelation 12: the devil is called “the accuser of the brethren” (before God). But he also accuses God before us.
However, we will not be taking our theology from the father of lies. We’re buying none of what he is selling.
We will believe the Lord. “Come unto me,” Jesus said.
So, what’s keeping you from praying?
Keep it simple.
Jesus said, “The Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8).
He already knows. So, whatever else that means, it definitely means that prayer is not for God.
He’s not sitting in Heaven wondering about us, worrying that He has not heard from us lately, afraid we may have fallen into the grasp of some enemy. He knows.
Prayer is for us.
We’re the one who benefits most from praying.
But, again, let’s not get hung up on the particulars. Don’t worry about who needs it and who gets the credit. Just pray.
Tell the Father what’s going on, what you are feeling or thinking, and what you need.
I heard about an old fellow who was called on to pray in church. He stood and prayed and prayed and prayed. He circled the earth in his prayers, covered every subject he could think of, and seemed to be in no rush to end the prayer. Finally, a little lady sitting behind him reached over and pulled on his coattail. “Henry,” she said, “Just call Him Father and ask Him for something.”
Keep it simple.