I was co-teaching my church’s Lenten Study last night on prayer. While clergy are trained how to pray and given ample opportunity to perfect a vast array of prayer styles and techniques, I realize that a lot of people feel insecure about praying. We are plagued with doubt. We question how to do it, whether we are doing it right, or whether what we pray is worthy. We have become too self conscious about our prayer that we let it keep us from praying at all.
(Image courtesy of joyministries.org)
Prayer must be, for the Christian, like breathing. We do it naturally, instinctively. At times, we may think about it and acknowledge that if we do not breathe, we will die. To not pray is to die spiritually. It is to cut ourselves off from God, our maker and creator, who put the life within us, breathed into us the breath of life. To live apart from God is to spiritually atrophy until the spirit strangles from deprivation. Prayer is the lifeline that keeps us tethered to God, and allows God to reach across the planes of existence and into our inner most being, breathing new life into us. In prayer we find forgiveness for our sins; we find redemption from our trespasses. Here we reach out to God with outstretched hands, and God, from on high, reaches back.
Praying is like learning to walk. We start slow, stumble, and fall, but we always keep trying until, suddenly, it is the most natural thing. I think about the necessity of prayer and I recall the text of 2 Chronicles:
“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place” (7:14-15 NRS).
What we can do is just what the scripture says: be humble and try. Pray and turn from our wickedness, knowing that God hears, God forgives, and God heals. Open your hands, open your hearts, open your mouth and let the words pour out like water from an ever-flowing stream. No one needs to understand, but God who can make sense of all things. God would rather you try, than never hear you call.
Hear my prayer.
It is not perfect, as you are.
But it is honest.
In my heart, there is pain.
Take it away.
In my head, there is confusion.
Make it clear.
All this I trust into your hands.
Make me whole, new, and able.