I met two high school foreign exchange students yesterday, and I did what any American would do. I asked them one of the weirdest questions that only an American would come up with. “So, what language do you guys dream in?” As they looked at me funny, kind of laughed, and answered with an “Uh…,” I quickly moved on to, “So, have you guys been speaking English long?” Needless to say, I didn’t get very far with these foreigners.
Despite my failure, this conversation led me to think of how short I’ve fallen at speaking a different language. You see, I took 3 years of honors Spanish in high school and 4 semesters of Spanish in college. One would think after all of that learning I could go to Mexico and hold my own. However, you put me in Mexico, and you’re for sure to hear me quote Dora the Explorer daily.
As believers, our struggle with prayer is a lot like my struggle with learning a language. It’s something you may have learned about for years, but until you practice it fluently, you may never experience it fully. We see in Scripture that Jesus had twelve disciples who stuck by His side while here on Earth. Throughout their time together, Jesus taught them many things, one of them being prayer. Luke 11: 1 says, “Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’” In the following verses, we see Jesus answer this question thoroughly by teaching His disciples the principles of prayer that each of us should follow to become fluent in our communication with God.
If God knows my thoughts and all of my actions, then why do I need to pray? A relationship with God is like keeping up a relationship with one of your really good friends. If you’re not communicating with your friend, you may want to ask yourself if you’re really friends. We see in Luke 11:1 that Jesus, the most holy and righteous man who ever lived, prayed. John begs in 1 John 2:6, “Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did.” If we’re called to live like Jesus did, then we’re called to pray. No questions asked. It’s challenging because people complicate prayer. Some people tend to treat prayer like leaving a voicemail or sending a twitter message to God, but the thing is: we don’t only have 140 characters to work with. Prayer is as much you talking to God as it is Him talking to you. Tell Him how your day is. Tell Him you don’t like math class. Tell Him you’re thankful for tacos at taco bell. Whatever you tell Him, just know He wants to spend time with you. Our God is a jealous God, and He wants your attention. He may not need it, but, boy, does He want it.
How to Pray?
There’s no perfect way to pray. We see in Luke 11:3-4 that Jesus gives us a structure to follow. But does He want us to pray those exact words every time? Probably not. Jesus went on to talk in Luke 11:5-10 about the importance of going to God with what you need for yourself and for a friend. I love this because not only did God give us a structure to follow for us who are rule-followers, but He also gave us an example of how to just go to God for what you need. Find a way to pray that you enjoy. Maybe it’s on your knees, in a hammock, or walking to class. Whatever it looks like, “this is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14).
A lot of times I catch myself treating God like a friend who has let me down. My lack of trust in people spills over into the way I trust God. But, the Bible says in Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Synonyms for “forsake” that I found on Thesaurus.com are “to quit, desert, set aside, give up, or disown.” The Lord promised right there in Deuteronomy that He will never quit you, desert you, set you to the side, give up on you, or disown you! With that being said, if we really believe who God says He is, then why don’t we trust that He will do what He says He will when we pray? Jesus states in Luke 11:13, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” Think of the people in your life who love you and want to do good for you. So, if those people you thought of, imperfect people, can still love you and give you good things, how much more does God love you and want to do good for you? Instead of expecting God to treat you like a friend who did you wrong, approach the throne in prayer expecting the Father to do great things—great things based on who He is, the God of the universe, the One who sent His Son to die and rise again for you.
Prayer is something we can never do enough. I’ve never heard someone say, “Man. Did I pray way too much today!” God literally opened a line of communication so that we can walk and talk with Him daily. Luke 11 tells us exactly why we pray, how to pray, and what we should expect when we pray. So what’s holding you back from laying things at God’s feet the moment you get anxious or can’t make a decision? What about the times you find out a family member is sick or your friend is struggling? Or how about the hard times late at night where you can’t get bad thoughts out of your head or you can’t put the blade down? In times of joy, in times of pain, in times of laughter, and in times of hardships, I challenge you this week to take all of it to Jesus in prayer.
Lord, help us this week to be warriors of prayer and to take everything to You, good or bad. Help us believe that You have our good in mind. May we see people through Your eyes and be more like You everyday. Thank You for this open line of communication we have with You each and every minute of each and every day. Show us Your face this week. Lord, we love You; help us to live like we love You.
1 Chronicles 16:11
Renovation of the Heart in Daily Practice by Dallas Willard & Jan Johnson
Prayer: Does it Make a Difference? by Phillip Yancey