1He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread.
4 And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.”
5And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’7And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
9“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Let's do a word association game. I say a word and then you say a word that comes immediately to mind. (I've done this word association game before in a devotional a while back. I don't remember when. If I don't remember most likely you don't remember either.)
So here goes ...
I say 'dog', .... you say _____
I say 'hot', .... you say _____
I say 'Tom Brady', .... you say _____
I say 'prayer', .... you say _____
So what did you put in the blanks? 'cat'? 'cold'? ???
For 'prayer', did you say 'uugh!' or 'yay!' or 'what's prayer?'? Probably there's a whole range of associative responses, from delight to disgust .
OK, probably not disgust, but something close, like 'meh' indifference.
When it comes to prayer, we need to start where we're really at. If you're super-motivated, then you can stop reading this devotional now and I'll just say, "Have a good day in the Lord!"
If your level of motivation is below the super-motivated, then hang in here just for a few minutes longer.
In the passage above, the disciples ask Jesus, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John [the Baptist] taught his disciples." We don't really know why the disciples asked Jesus this question, for the passage does not tell us explicitly their reason for asking. The only "reason" is that John the Baptist taught his disciples how to pray.
Prayer in Jewish life is essential to that life. There were many set prayers from the Scriptures, the Psalms, and from their own Jewish liturgy that were said on a daily and weekly basis. Most likely the disciples of Jesus wanted to know whether there was a particular way of praying that was appropriate. Well, Jesus obliges and gives the disciples the now well-known "The Lord's Prayer." (Luke's version is the shorter version.)
The prayer itself is presented as a pattern for praying. The important thing isn't reciting verbatim the said prayer, but the elements constituting the prayer.
Like, "your kingdom come," "give us each day our daily bread," etc.
But all this presupposes that one is praying or that one is motivated to pray. The great challenge for many of us is not what pattern to follow in our praying but whether we are in fact praying or whether we are motivated enough to pray. That's what I want to address here.
A lot of things can kill motivation. Why bother? Prayer doesn't really change anything. It's boring. Nothing seems to happen. I get sleepy. I'm distracted. I can't seem to concentrate. I run out of words to pray. I feel like a fraud when praying. I just don't enjoy praying. I have so many other things to do. There are more important things for me to think about. I'd rather look at my phone, check my email, play a short video game. I don't even think about praying. Is it really that important?
With these thoughts and feelings swirling around, it's no wonder that many do not pray. It's not a terrible mystery. It's as plain as the long toenails on our feet and the waxy buildup in our ears.
How do we break through this impasse of lack of motivation? I could say, "Pray about it!" But then again of course that's precisely the challenge. Praying about something when praying itself is a problem is the problem.
I suggest you read. Here's a book I recommend. Paul Miller's A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World.
But what if you don't like reading, let alone reading about prayer?
Here's another suggestion. Ask others to pray for you so that you are motivated to pray. Say to someone, "I don't like praying. Can you pray for me this week that I can find the motivation to pray?"
One more suggestion. Become more conscious of your mental "prayers." The thing is, you are praying more than you think you are. I'm not talking about set apart times of praying that we all know about. I am talking about the type of "praying" that occurs when you are worried, anxious, afraid, wishful, or hurting. I put this "prayer" in quotation marks to indicate that there can be a rudimentary form of praying when we direct any of these thoughts toward God. Present your worries, anxious thoughts, your fears, your desires, your aspirations to God in very simple forms of "Lord, I am worried about ____ ." "Jesus, I am afraid of _____ ." "O God, how I wish _________ this would happen." "What a gorgeous day, Lord." "Thank you, Jesus!" and so forth. These are prayers. Not pseudo-prayers. But real prayers. They are real because they come from you sincerely and you are saying them to the Lord and you are also ready to hear from Him. It doesn't get more real than that.
Let's pray: O Father God, we want to connect with you and experience the joy and richness of connecting heart to heart with you all throughout the day, both in verbal and mental prayers. We are created for relationship and communion. When we find ourselves in a give-and-take relationship, in a sweet fellowship of sharing our thoughts and feelings with you, therein is found a rich life of prayer. Help us to make things simple but rich, help us to be sincere and honest, help us to be open to you in our brokenness and need, help us to share our joys with you as well. In Jesus' Name, Amen.