The bookstores are full of books on prayer. When the pastor conducts a survey for possible Bible study topics, one of them is bound to be prayer. And why not? Praying seems to be the thing to do in the Bible, Christianity and all religions. Jesus prayed.
But it is easy to make prayer complicated. First of all, when you think about it, why pray at all? Does God not know what we want, what we need, what is going to happen anyways? Secondly, it does not seem to work consistently. Thirdly, I always feel guilty that I am never praying enough!
Every religion seeks some sort of trick to get God or the gods to do what they want. Sadly, Christians think the same way. Some will say you have to really mean it when you pray. Others will poo-poo a written prayer read aloud because it is not from the heart. Of course, you have probably heard the classic 20-minute prayer that keeps repeating, “Father God, we just wanna’…” If I stretch out my arms will He hear me? If I get on my knees will He respond? If I go on and on will God take me seriously?
Perhaps the disciples were looking for some sort of magic word or motion to get God’s attention when they asked Jesus to teach them to pray as recorded in Matthew 6:9-13. Jesus responds, “When you pray say…” He gives them the actual words to say. He does not tell them to get all emotional or say God’s name over and over. He does not tell them unless they really mean the prayer it will not work. He not only instructs them how to pray (or more importantly how not to). He just gives them the words!
Praying is literally a no brainer. First, we pray because God says so. There is really no greater reason than that. You can make up a bunch of touchy-feely stuff if it works for you, but ultimately just do it!
Martin Luther writes in his explanation of the Lord’s Prayer in the Large Catechism:
And the first matter is to know that it is our duty to pray because of God’s commandment. For thus we heard in the Second Commandment: Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain, that we are there required to praise that holy name, and call upon it in every need, or to pray. For to call upon the name of God is nothing else than to pray. Prayer is therefore as strictly and earnestly commanded as all other commandments: to have no other God, not to kill, not to steal, etc. Let no one think that it is all the same whether he pray or not, as vulgar people do, who grope in such delusion and ask: Why should I pray? Who knows whether God heeds or will hear my prayer? If I do not pray, someone else will. And thus, they fall into the habit of never praying, and frame a pretext, as though we taught that there is no duty or need of prayer, because we reject false and hypocritical prayers.
Looking for reasons to pray? Do you have a lot of arguments against it? What if the God who made all things told you to do it? What if the God who rescued from sin, Satan and death told you to do it? That almost makes it easy, does it not? The burden of being motivated is lifted. Praying has nothing to do with whether God knows your needs ahead of time at all. Just do it. Prayer has nothing to do with the Christian apology dance of, “Well, sometimes God’s answer is no.” Just pray. He has already gone to the cross to win you back. You know His heart. Whether you feel like it or not, make time to speak to God.
Having trouble figuring out what to say? Well, here is a prayer written by the one who answers prayers! It is probably pretty darn good and has a high chance of being fulfilled, right? Jesus said, “When you pray say…” So, say it. Seriously, just speak it. Want to avoid saying something you do not understand or mean? Sure, you do. So, while you are praying it, think about what you are asking for. It is not an either-or situation. Steal Jesus’ homework and use His Prayer. And… consider the wider scope of each petition you are speaking. They will probably produce branches of prayers which will take up your whole morning.
Excuses are over. It is easy. We make it hard because this is what we do with everything God tells us to do – especially wonderful things like take the Sabbath off and call on Him for all your needs!