I don’t remember when I was first taught to say my prayers, but it was early in my childhood. I was taught certain prayers and expected to say them word perfect. Frankly, I must have been an unspiritual kid because saying prayers never really engaged my heart. Prayer was just part of my daily routine.
Fast-forward years later, when Greg and I had our own children. We didn’t teach them to recite pre-written prayers. We wanted them to pray what was in their hearts. But we discovered that when they were old enough, the children took our words and came up with their own “formula” prayers!
There is something in us, isn’t there, that tries to reduce prayer to a method, a formula that we memorize, recite and repeat.
“Bless me, help me, forgive me, go with me, protect me…”
Most everyone prays at some time. In the car alone, over meals together, and most fervently in a crisis. But if we’re honest, we have to admit that the majority of our prayers consist mainly of personal requests. We may pray for others—our families, our friends, the sick, or the lost—but we come back to our own needs again and again.
Try this thought out for a moment. Has there ever been a person you wanted to develop a relationship with, but it never seemed to go anywhere? You fell for them but they didn’t fall for you. They were polite and kind, but stayed distant.
It may be like that with your kids. No matter how hard you try, they just won’t open up and let you in.
Or perhaps it’s a friendship. You know you would have so much in common.
They would be someone to hang out with, to eat and laugh and talk with. But they always seem to be busy and eventually, you get the message. They are disinterested.
When a relationship we hope will go to a deeper level doesn’t, it can be frustrating. You cannot force somebody to draw closer.
Long ago, I had a friend who had been married for ten years. As often happens, they got busy doing the things you need to do to provide for a family, a home, pay bills, raise the kids, plan for a secure future.
There was a time when they were so in love, dating, making time for each other, talking, sharing their dreams. But over time, even though they were still polite and (technically) still communicated, it became obvious they were out of touch with each other. “Did you remember to pick up the dry cleaning?” “Did you deposit that check like I asked you to?” No real “issues” that I could see, no disagreements to speak of—they just drifted into a cold and distant marriage. They were together . . . and alone.
When I think of that couple, I determined I never wanted to end up that way.
Is that how it is in our spiritual lives? Is that the way our Heavenly Father feels when our prayers are only a passing thought, offered when it’s convenient or when we’re in desperate need?
Prayer is meant to bring us into a personal relationship with the heart of God, in intimate and meaningful two-way communication. Throughout scripture, the Triune God calls to us, inviting us to come get quietly away and alone, and talk to Him.
- As God did in the garden, in the cool of the day calling, “Adam, where are you?” (Genesis 3:8-9)
- As Jesus did, weeping over the city of Jerusalem saying, “How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you were not willing.” (Matthew 23:37)
- As in the last book of the Bible we hear, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ Let the one who hears say, ‘Come!’ Let the one who is thirsty come!” (Revelation 22:17)
Yet how often we respond to God’s call, to Jesus’ cry, to the Spirit’s invitation with quick, shallow prayers. We repeat the same worn-out phrases to Jesus, who by His life, death and resurrection, has opened the way for us to come to our Father in heaven any time—any place—as often as we can.
It has been said that we fail in private before we ever fail in public.
I confess that, for me, it’s much easier to work on my Bible study but harder to prioritize prayer. Prayer requires greater humbling and dependence before God. Everything in me will fight self-denial and humility. This is very hard indeed.
We confess that so often we allow our prayers to be interrupted and cut short by almost any distraction. How often we place our activity before this vital time in Your presence. How often we prefer to work rather than to sit and worship and listen to You.
Help us realize that to be without prayer is, in a very real sense, to be without You.
You are our Life, our Hope, our Treasure.