This Article's Contents
Helps for prayer 🙂
Don’t Be Intimidated.
- Not by the idea that God is always angry, or touchy, or not willing to put up with us. It is wise to assume grace.
- Not by the fact that we cannot do prayer as nicely, “right,” or eloquently as someone else. That’s true, of course, for every last one of us. But it doesn’t matter. It is wise to assume grace. God is listening to YOU.
- Not by worry about whether we have “God” defined just right, or are using the right name. Do not be intimidated by not being a genius about Divinity or metaphysics! Nobody is fully qualified in those matters.”God” covers a LOT of space! It is wise to assume grace.
- Not by the odd reality of speaking to an invisible being, who does not have a reputation for verbally responding. Just go ahead and do it. Some of the smartest, best people in history have made a habit of this.
- Don’t try to be fancy. You will not impress God with fanciness. God can out-fancy you in a tenth of a millisecond every day of the year. That is not at all what’s being looked for – the need here is honest relationship.
- Don’t try to be superior to anyone. Who will decide, anyway, whether your prayer is superior? I’m quite sure God literally does not care, and probably is offended if you are speaking to him in order to impress someone else. I am offended when someone tries to talk some certain way to me in order to impress someone else. If you want to talk to me, do so. I expect God feels the same.
Be Fairly Frequent.
Because, if you don’t pray,
- You Don’t Pray. If you don’t pray, you don’t pray. If you do, you do.
- You Don’t Get answers. Answers to prayer do sometimes happen. For those who practice fairly often it seems to happen more regularly.
- You Don’t Learn the Skills of Prayer. We get better at practically everything in life by practice and experience. If one never opts to get any experience, they can’t be getting practice, training, growth, insight. Of course you don’t always do it “right” every last time. That’s part of the deal.
“At first it groans, at last it glides”*. If it feels like a “groan” keep at it; on average it will definitely be getting smoother.
- Pin it down. Sometimes the hard part of this practice of honesty is to pin down what really needs talking about to God, or even to oneself. Calm down. Look at your life, worries, habits, hopes, spiritual attitudes. Everything can, and probably should, come before God. Not everything at once, but sooner or later.
- No showing off to God or other people. Seriously? We’re going to try to impress GOD? Drop that idea quickly. And those other people aren’t allowed to listen in.
We are not being asked to control people – neither their thinking nor their lives. But we are certainly called to love them and care for / about them.
Bring our attention, and love, and God’s attention, to specific persons or situations because of our love (concern) for them. Of course we can pray for certain changes, or decisions, or deliverances, and probably sometimes we should. But do not imagine that this makes you responsible for whatever good or bad things come. That thinking is dangerous to you and to them.
St Paul says he mentions people in his prayers. That’s pretty mellow. He lists in a few places things he prays for people – things like
- knowing God better,
- being more filled with love,
- being wiser and more discerning about life in this world.
Well, that seems to me to be good stuff, and unlikely to start a theological fight. What do you think?
And here’s a profound insight on prayer from John Wesley – against hypocrisy in prayer.
_____ * P T Forsyth, in “The Soul of Prayer”
[This is an edited version of a post published here in early 2019.]