prayer, story

Confident Prayer?

As a Christian, it should be a natural thing to know how to pray. The Word of God is powerful. In the middle of a confused and darkened world, we take comfort in the light. The Word of God distinguishes the right and wrong, the good and bad, a transcendent reality that we are only a small part of. Something greater and bigger carries us along emboldening our decisions and straightening out our path, guiding our words. Therefore, it should be an easy thing to pray to God.

I clearly remember meeting a friend with equal confidence in prayer back when I was a teenager. Stepping into an aged wooden cabin I meet a girl my age with bright red curly hair. We were roommates at a week-long retreat. Standard bunk beds lined the walls in this room that looked exactly like a high school camp cabin should look like. Unpacking her overnight bag, she placed her stuffed monkey to the right of her pillow. We exchanged names and stories and soon found a happy friendship in each other, even though we had only met 5 minutes ago. 

Here we discovered a shared love for God and theology. Our conversation during that week went deeper and deeper in between meals and obstacle courses and campfires. And loving this conversation as much as I do, I’m not shy at all to have this discussion with the new friend I had found.

So, one night after the campfire songs and smores, we made our way back to our cabin. Her face suddenly dropped into a completely serious profile. Edging to the end of the uncomfortable camp mattress bed with intensity she said, “Will you pray with me?” I felt the weight of this question hang in the room. To pray with someone is to enter into a personal and revealing relationship with God, and a more personal and revealing relationship with this friend, as well. But I’m ready. Here we go.

“Yes, I will pray with you”.  She smiled, crisscrossed her legs on the wooden bare floor, and held out her hands. “Ok” she says, “I’ll start.” 

She closed her eyes and took my hands. So I did the same, following her lead. I’m not sure what I was going to say yet, but confident the words would just come to me as the prayer progressed. Prayer comes naturally, right? All of a sudden, I heard a strange cooing and clicking. Startled that a forest animal was interrupting our prayer session, my eyes shot open looking for the unwelcome beast in the middle of our prayer. But it’s my friend. Eyes clenched shut fervently praying in tongues.

I was stunned, with my eyes open, not proper decorum for prayer, I know. But I was literally frozen. I had never heard anything like this before. I couldn’t understand even one word that poured from her lips. With all boldness and confidence, exposed before our God, we were praying. But I have no idea what we were saying.  

It was right then that I realized I do not know how to pray to God. I had some nice things to say about the Almighty, but in that moment, I didn’t know if it was what God wanted to hear. Perhaps the rhythmic babbling that my friend offered up was more in line with what He desired. She was just as sure as I was that these were the words of true prayer. Something was entirely to clear to me in that moment: I didn’t know how to pray, and for that I was ashamed. 

Even as a Christian, it is not a natural thing to know how to pray. Our words and desires and even babblings are not what make up true prayer to the Father in Heaven. Even the disciples had to ask Jesus, “Lord teach us to pray”. (Luke 11:1) So, Jesus taught them. But he did not tell them to be personally reflective to ask for what they really needed. He did not tell them to speak in tongues to prove they really had the Spirit of God. He did not tell them to stay silent in fear for saying the wrong thing. Jesus taught them His words, saying, “When you pray, say…” (Luke 11:2)

Our Lord gives God’s Word to speak back to Him in prayer. It’s not flashy or new, It’s not sexy or mysterious. But the Word of God is powerful. In the middle of a confused and darkened world, we pray the perfect Son’s prayer and take comfort in the light. The Word of Christ distinguishes the right and wrong, the good and bad, a transcendent reality that we are only a small part of. Something greater and bigger carries us along emboldening our decisions and straightening out our path, guiding our words. It’s Christ who perfectly prays to God. We can be completely confident in His prayer.

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