How Do We Pray?

Devotion for 7/27/2020 by Jonathan Moelker

Matthew 6:7-13

“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“Pray then in this way:

Our Father in heaven,
    hallowed be your name.
10     Your kingdom come.
    Your will be done,
        on earth as it is in heaven.
11     Give us this day our daily bread.
12     And forgive us our debts,
        as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13     And do not bring us to the time of trial,
        but rescue us from the evil one.

The prayer in this passage, which we know as the Lord’s Prayer, was repeated by early Christians throughout the day.  Oftentimes, we struggle to come up with original words for prayers, seeking a prayer that is specific to our moment in our lives.  And while that certainly is one way of praying, it is not the only way.  This prayer, the Lord’s Prayer is one that was written to be repeated, reusing the same words each time, not only at church on Sundays, but at any time where we need a reminder of how to pray.

As I have talked to people the past weeks, I have been struck by how many people struggle with praying.  Praying seems like it should be an easy thing, saying what is on our hearts to God, but often words dry up as we stop to pray.  With so much on our hearts these days, danger, fear, frustration, it can be hard to find words large enough to encapsulate all that we feel into a prayer.  I know that my tendency is to think that the bigger the problem, the better of a prayer I should have for it.

But God never asks for “high quality” prayers.  Praying is not an argument between us and God, where we may be able to convince God to provide for us.  God is providing for us.  Amd this passage says, God “knows what you need before you ask”.  This verse has been comforting to me.  I do not know what to pray these days.  Sometimes I pray that the virus goes away, that a vaccine is created, for no more people to die… Sometimes I pray merely for my family and friends to be safe, for my loved ones to stay employed and provided for.  Some days I pray for all of these things.  Other days I don’t know what I want to pray for.  I’m too tired to know what I need.

On these days, the too-tired days, I am trying to remember the Lord’s Prayer.  Like early Christians, I bring out these well-worn words and join the many people who, throughout the centuries, have used this prayer as their prayer.

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be your name.

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 forgive our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil

For thine is the kingdom and the power

and the glory forever. Amen.

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