Books and books have been written on prayer: how to pray, collections of prayers written by others, proper ways to pray, prayers for specific occasions, etc., etc. Of all the questions people ask about faith, one of the most frequent is most certainly, “How should I pray?”
Our scripture reading for this Sunday comes from the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus prays The Lord’s Prayer as an example for his disciples to follow. But in Luke 11:1-4, Jesus is responding to a more direct request from the Disciples. They had been watching him pray, and when he finished, one said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” I guess you could say this common question we all have — this desire to know how to pray — is also nothing new. And, it has been asked by all kinds of people, even those who were closest to Jesus himself.
So are there rules for praying? Do you have to kneel? Do you have to be in church? Does it count more if you read someone else’s well-articulated prayer or make up a somewhat awkward one of your own? Is there a particular style or level of formality we should follow to get God’s ear? Are there certain key words or phrases we need to make sure we include? Must a prayer be spoken out loud, or do the silent ones work just as well? Does a prayer even need to use words at all? Eyes open or eyes closed? Bowing down or looking up?
When we read this passage of scripture in which Jesus instructs us to pray the Lord’s Prayer, does that mean that we always have to include the Lord’s Prayer along with any of the other things we want to pray about? Should the Lord’s Prayer come first or last when we say our private prayers to God?
This Sunday we’re going to look together at what Jesus said about prayer — and what these instructions really mean for us in our own practice of prayer as Red Letter Christians.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster