I don’t like formulas much. Especially ones that tell you how to pray.
I’ve read and heard dozens of opinions on how to get your prayers answered. Maybe hundreds. Step-by-step instructions that outline everything from exactly what to say right down to describing the appropriate clothing to wear if you really want a prompt response from God. Kind of extreme, I know, but it’s out there.
Matthew 6:5-15 includes the Lord’s Prayer and gives us some pretty good instruction on how to pray. Here it is, from the The Message:
And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat? Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this:
Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best—
as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.
In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part.
It’s simple. Really.
My daughter wrote a blog post about prayer this past week, and I like what she said.
“Pray big. You dream big, I know you do, I’m a woman with big dreams, too. Why don’t you pray it? We pray to God as though it’s a fast food drive-through and He can only answer the prayers that He has an answer for in the warming tray. We pray for grace to get through the day. That we’ll be patient with our children. That we won’t be too tired to do all the things we need to do. We’re selling God short. Be honest – all of those prayers don’t need God. For the most part, we can accomplish those with a bit of will power and discipline.
God is waiting for your big prayers. I see Him in heaven, watching you pray, and waiting for you to ask for something real. Healing. To be debt free. To open a door that seems glued shut. To help you accomplish something that you can not do without Him. PRAY BIG. God can handle the big prayers. Stop patronizing Him with inconsequential, barely thought out prayers. Pray from your heart. Pray from your dreams – God gave them to you in the first place! There is a place for the prayers for grace, patience, strength – there are days when we truly need His help with the day-to-day. But get the big picture in your mind. God is waiting to answer big prayers.”
No formula. No “how to’s”. No perfect day when all your ducks are in a row and God happens to be in a good mood.
Just tell Him what’s in your heart.