I recently looked at the first part of the Sermon on the Mount in the fifth chapter of Matthew. The next area I’d like to touch on is prayer. I call this “That We Pray,” for I believe we deal with a different problem than the people in the days of Christ. For them, the problem was that they were praying to be seen by men. For us, the problem is often that we are not even praying.
Now the exception to this is when we are in a church service or a Bible Study. Does anybody else suspect that several people when giving a public prayer in such a setting are trying to make it sound as good as possible? You listen to them and sometimes wonder “I wonder if that’s really what they pray like in private.” Maybe I’m the only one like that and I hope my public prayers match my private prayers.
That goes along with my suspicion though about all of us putting on a spiritual face when we get together. We often tell people “I’ll pray for you,” but I wonder how often we really do this. In fairness, I must admit I have some friends who are very dedicated to the prayer life. One tells me the reason she prays so much might be to compensate for those of us who don’t. I’m very thankful for her and other prayer warriors like her.
I’ve noticed also that whenever I hear someone preach a sermon on prayer, they say that that is something they need to work on as well. Those of us in ministry have a really difficult time with this I believe. We can get so caught up in the service of God that we often forget that we need to spend time with God himself. C.S. Lewis warned of the dangers of those of us who spend so much time defending the existence of God that some, including us, might think he has nothing better to do than to exist.
The only other time we pray is when we’re really in a bind or want something very badly. All of a sudden, prayer comes naturally to us. Many of us have a problem with praise prayer. Christian speaker and resurrection expert Gary Habermas has joked that some of us might not be comfortable with praise because somebody might think we’re charismatic. This is a valuable lesson that those of us who aren’t charismatic though need to learn from our charismatic brothers and sisters. It is okay to break forth in praise to God.
To get further to the that we pray, I’ll go on and confess that for me, this is something difficult as well, but I do it every night. I’ll turn out the lights after some reading and the last thing I do before I doze off is purposefully focus on God and pray. It’s amazing that in many cases, that is the happiest I am during the day and one wonders “Why don’t I do this more often?”
Before getting into content, which will be for another day, let’s be sure that there are different ways to pray. Some people prefer to kneel down. I have a steel rod on my spine. Kneeling is not the #1 posture I prefer to be in. I tend to lie down. If I’m in church and we stand for prayer, I have often sat down. I try to keep humility in doing so for I do not believe I am worthy to stand in the Lord’s presence and I want to remember that I am privileged to enter his presence.
As for time, I will tell you to not worry about it. Some of you think you should pray for a long period of time. Some of you can. God bless you. If you can only pray for five minutes though, give him five. If you can pray for half an hour and do so because you really want to pray and not just to pray for half an hour, then pray for half an hour. Prayer is meant to be a joy. Not a matter of legalism.
Bottom line though. Pray. It’s a command and a gift.