Monday, April 20, 2015

What Should You Say to God?

Prayer is a common aspect of human life.  This has been true throughout human history in every culture and is true in our own day as well.  According to a 2010 Pew Research poll 55% of Americans claim to pray every day. If that's true, then every other person you met today prayed. 

But does God care what we pray about? Are there some things we should say to God in prayer and other things we should not say? What kind of prayers does God want to hear?  Or can we say anything to Him?

Consider human relationships for a second:
  • What should every husband say to this wife? Wife to a husband?
  • Are there things every father should say to their son/daughter?
  • Are there things that every child should say to their parent?
Clearly each of these relationships carries with them obligations.  A parent who does not tell their child they love them is failing as a parent.  A husband who doesn't tell his wife: "You're beautiful," is probably failing as well.

But in our day, it is unusual to think that are words that we should say to God.  It is common today to hear people say that we should talk to God about whatever is on our hearts.  While there is some truth to this ("….Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7) "Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us." (Psalms 62:8)), God calls us to pray more than simply whatever comes to our minds (as if the best prayers were streams of consciousness prayers).  He also calls us to pray more than just what we are anxious about. 

If you heard that Jesus was going to be giving a seminar on how to pray, what would you expect him to talk about? Well, God in wisdom and power, has preserved and inspired records from both Matthew and Luke of Jesus's teaching on prayer for us.  What does Jesus say about how we should pray?  In this post we'll just look at one aspect of Jesus teaching on prayer.  In future posts, we'll flush out other areas of his doctrine of prayer. 

For now, let's look at Matthew 6:9a and Luke 11:1-2a:  "Pray then like this..." and "Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray, say..."

As we will see in future posts, the way of praying that Jesus teaches his disciples does indeed include prayer for all our needs and anxieties.  But note what Jesus does NOT say when he is teaching on prayer or when the disciples ask to be taught to pray.  He does not say: "Hey guys, just pray whatever it is that's on your heart.  That's totally cool." No.  Jesus gives them both a pattern ("like this") and a form ("in this way") for prayer.   If the disciples, when they asked to learn how to pray, were told by Jesus to pray the Lord's Prayer, shouldn't we, who also want to learn to pray, learn the Lord's Prayer and what it means?

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