Do you know how to pray?
Before we talk about that important question, let me back up a bit. It took me a while to find this image. To be honest, it almost always takes longer than I want to find the right image for my posts, or for the PowerPoint slides I make to illustrate my sermons. I use Google Image Search, and often the results returned are not quite what I’m looking for. So I have to refine the search multiple times and scroll through row after row of images. Sometimes the images help me think about my blog posts or sermons in a new way, and I decide to change the sermon. But more often, I tire of not finding the right image.
This time, though, I had one phrase I was looking for: “I don’t know how to pray.” I have heard people express that sentiment or something like it many times over the years. That’s why my sermon this coming Sunday is called “How to Pray”.
All I wanted was one picture that said “I don’t know how to pray” or “How do I pray?” As you can see the one I found is close. Close enough for me. I was surprised because I thought “How to Pray” would be a popular topic, and thus result in loads of images to choose from.
What was interesting, though, was that another result filled the page with images. That other result was the question “What to Pray?” It seems that people are talking about “What to Pray” rather than “How to Pray.” Or at least people are posting more images about “What to Pray” than they are posting images about “How to Pray.” The exception is that there were a few images referring to how to pray in specific circumstances. I would suggest that “How to Pray (in a specific situation)” is just a variation of “What to Pray”. So I didn’t want to use a picture that described, for example, “How to pray for your kids”.
I also didn’t want an image that referred to “What to Pray”; I wanted one about “How to Pray.” If you learn how to pray, it will be much, much easier to determine what to pray. Furthermore, I suspect that people, based on the input I have received from our Faith Church family, want to learn how to pray.
This morning I was talking with someone who mentioned prayer times before extended family meals. One older member of the family always does the praying. They are not rote prayers. But this person seems to be able to speak with eloquence in his prayers. So that person always prays.
Is that the answer to “How to pray?” Eloquence? Do you have to be a good public speaker in order to pray?
Or what about those rote prayers? I mentioned rote prayers above because that is another way people answer “How to pray?” A rote prayer is a memorized prayer that is recited. For example, The Lord’s Prayer which starts “Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed by thy name…” There are mealtime prayers, bedtime prayers, and so on. Among the various religious traditions there are loads of rote prayers. Are rote prayers the answer to “How to pray?” I would say “Yes.” But only partially. I love The Book of Common Prayer, as it helps us pray in many situations. You can read and inhabit one of its meaningful prayers for a host of common life situations. I believe we that we would do well to memorize and recite, or at least read, these pre-written prayers often. But I also believe there is more to prayer. Much more.
How about you? Do you feel you have a good handle on prayer? Are you wondering “How to Pray”?
At Faith Church on Sunday we begin a summer teaching series called Spiritual Exercises, and if you don’t have a church family, we invite you to join us. For the next few months we’re going to be talking about the following habits/disciplines/exercises which are vital for helping us live eternal life now. How to: pray, read the Bible, fast (deny yourself), talk about God, worship, be humble, depend on God, serve, give, make disciples, have solitude, love God with your mind.
We start off tomorrow trying to answer the question: How to pray?