Christopher Warrington, MDiv
Prayer. What is it?
Sometimes we forget what it truly means to pray. For those outside any faith that has prayer as part of its religious practices, prayer can seem mystical, awkward, or even idiotic. What do you to do? What do you say? Is there a certain way that you should be sitting, standing, or kneeling? What about your hands?
There have been thousands of pages written on this topic; but, for brevity's sake, this month’s letter is not going to be going into detail on the many types and pitfalls of prayer; except to say this:
There is no “right” way to pray.
(For those of you saying, “But Jesus said there was!”, you are right. We'll get to that in a minute.) When I say, “right way” I mean that there is no position that you need to take to make your prayers heard better. There are no words that you need to say that will magically make God listen to you. God is not a genie who grants wishes. He is not a “Santa Claus” whom you can ask for whatever you want. He is not a sky fairy that you can bend to your will by conjuring the right words or phrases to say. He is not a mystical force that is able to be manipulated. He is not an omnipotent being who doesn’t care about what you have to say or how you feel. He is the sovereign God who created the universe and all that is within it and He loves you and wants a relationship with you. This is what Jesus was getting at when He taught on how to pray.
Jesus’s teaching on prayer is recorded in Matthew 6:5–13:
“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. 1
This passage is taken from the section of Scripture referred to as the “Sermon on the Mount”. For those unfamiliar, this sermon turns commonly held beliefs by religious leaders of the day and reveals how it is not a checklist of actions, but it is our hearts that God looks at – the same is true when He speaks on prayer.
Matthew 6:5, 7
And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others.
And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.
Looking at the words that precede the actual prayer, we can see how Jesus taught that we should not pray in a manner that is self-exalting. This is the posture of prayer. God has created us all differently. Some people have a gift for memorizing Scripture and when they pray the Holy Spirit brings to mind a passage that the person then prays. Some people have been created to love patterns and routines as it helps them prepare themselves; like a certain morning routine that helps them wake up or nightly routine that helps them fall asleep. For these people praying in a particular fashion or in a liturgical way helps them center their heart on the will of God. Others pray with arms held high crying out to God as their soul cries out to be in relationship with the Almighty God; while others fall to their knees in silent awe and wonder at the ability to approach the throne of God. Is any one way right? No. Is any one way better? No. If you pray as God designed you to do, or in other words, if you are authentic in your prayers, then you are doing it right.
Jesus did give us specific words to pray in The Lord's Prayer. But, don’t forget the main point of the sermon He was giving: it isn’t about what you do, it is about your heart before God. Prayer starts in recognition of who God is and a desire to see His will be done; then it presents requests to God. And it isn’t that you need to ask for what you need. As Jesus said, "your Father knows what you need before you ask him" 2. The heart point is that God wants to be in relationship with you and wants you to precent your needs to Him.
So, let’s bring this to a conclusion. What is the posture of prayer? In one word, humbleness. That is it. God created you uniquely. When you pray, do not try to emulate others. Do not try to be what you are not. Approach the throne of God knowing who He is and who you are. Be authentic.
This is what I bring to you this month: I challenge you to take 30 days and practice a posture of humbleness when you pray. Starting Monday we will be posting weekly social media posts on our new Facebook page Prayer Nook (facebook.com/prayernook) and daily posts into the group Practicing the Posture of Prayer to help guide you through those 30 days. Use the group for fellowship and encouragement; not for posturing. Be mindful of Matthew 6:5-13. We will also be launching a new ministry soon that will have the sole focus of helping the Body of Christ build a deeper prayer life with God and to bond together by praying for one another. You can visit our website to signup to be notified on its launch by going to http://prayernook.com.
So, I leave you now with this: when practicing the posture of prayer remember to be humble and authentic. Be who God made you to be and remember who He is. He is God and He wants a personal relationship with you.
A prayer for humility
Lord, we thank you for the ability to come before your throne and pray to you. We thank you that you desire to have a relationship with us and know our needs even before we know them ourselves. Please be with us over this coming month as we jointly strive to have a posture of humility and authenticity when we pray. We desire to be in a deeper relationship with you. Amen.