By Cindy Koch –
As a Christian, it should be a natural thing to know how to pray. The Word of God is powerful. In the middle of a confused and darkened world, we take comfort in the light. The Word of God distinguishes between the right and the wrong, the good and the bad, a transcendent reality that we are only a small part of. Something greater and bigger carries us along emboldening our decisions and straightening out our path, guiding our words. Therefore, it should be an easy thing to pray to God.
I clearly remember meeting a friend with equal confidence in prayer back when I was a teenager. Stepping into an aged, wooden cabin, I meet a girl my age with bright red curly hair. We are roommates at a week-long retreat. Standard bunk beds line the walls in this room that looks exactly as a high school camp cabin should. Unpacking her overnight bag, she places her stuffed monkey to the right of her pillow. We exchange names and stories and soon find a happy friendship in each other, even though we have only met 5 minutes ago.
Here we discover a shared love for God and theology. Our conversation during that week goes deeper and deeper in between meals, obstacle courses, and campfires. And loving this conversation as much as I do, I’m not shy at all to have this discussion with the new friend I had found.
So, one night after the campfire songs and smores, we make our way back to our cabin. Her face suddenly drops into a completely serious profile. Edging to the end of the uncomfortable camp mattress bed with intensity she says, “Will you pray with me?” I feel the weight of this question hang in the room. To pray with someone is to enter into a personal and revealing relationship with God and a more personal and revealing relationship with this friend as well. But I’m ready. Here we go.
“Yes, I will pray with you”. She smiles, crisscrosses her legs on the wooden bare floor, and holds out her hands. “Ok” she says, “I’ll start.”
She closes her eyes and takes my hands. So I do the same, following her lead. I’m not sure what I’m going to say yet, but confident the words would just come to me as the prayer progresses. Prayer comes naturally, right? All of a sudden, I hear a strange cooing and clicking. Startled that a forest animal is interrupting our prayer session, my eyes shoot open looking for the unwelcome beast in the middle of our prayer. But it’s my friend. Eyes clenched shut, fervently praying in tongues.
I’m stunned, with my eyes open, not proper decorum for prayer, I know. But I’m literally frozen. I had never heard anything like this before. I couldn’t understand even one word that poured from her lips. With all boldness and confidence, exposed before our God, we are praying. But I have no idea what we are saying.
It was right then that I realized I do not know how to pray to God. I had some nice things to say about the Almighty, but in that moment, I didn’t know if it was what God wanted to hear. Perhaps the rhythmic babbling that my friend offered up was more in line with what He desired. She was just as sure as I was that these were to words of true prayer. Something was entirely to clear to me in that moment: I didn’t know how to pray, and for that I was ashamed.
Even as a Christian, it is not a natural thing to know how to pray. Our words and desires and even babblings are not what make up true prayer to the Father in Heaven. Even the disciples had to ask Jesus, “Lord teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). So, Jesus taught them. But he did not tell them to be personally reflective to ask for what they really needed. He did not tell them to speak in tongues to prove they really had the spirit of God. He did not tell them to stay silent in fear for saying the wrong thing. Jesus taught them His words, saying, “When you pray, say…” (Luke 11:2).
Our Lord gives God’s Word to speak back to Him in prayer. It’s not flashy or new. It’s not sexy or mysterious. But the Word of God is powerful. In the middle of a confused and darkened world, we pray the perfect Son’s prayer and take comfort in the light. The Word of Christ distinguishes between the right and the wrong, the good and the bad, a transcendent reality that we are only a small part of. Something greater and bigger carries us along emboldening our decisions and straightening out our path, guiding our words. It’s Christ who perfectly prays to God. We can be completely confident in His prayer.