“When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. 6 But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” – Matthew 6:5-6
There are many different types of prayers. I have been present for some long showy prayers filled with repetition and lots of emphasis that feels a lot more like they’re being prayed by actors trying to impress an audience than children trying to talk to their father.
Praying for a long time, using fancy words or repetition doesn’t mean we are more likely to get God’s attention. I honestly don’t know why we Christians feel that God will hear us more clearly like that. I think a big part of it is that is how we have learned to pray from watching and listening to other Christians praying to groups but God doesn’t need the show. He is focused on the quality and the right heart attitude.
The reality for me is that years of growing up in the church and hearing these eloquent prayers has discouraged me from praying in many situations. I don’t talk that way and I don’t think that way. When asked to pray publicly, I feel a certain amount of pressure to put on a show. I feel like my faith and my connection with Jesus is being evaluated and judged based on my prayer. The truth is it may be by some other Christians but not by God. God wants that true connection.
I sometimes wonder if God hears those fancy prayers and gets impatient. I know I do but it is funny to picture God hanging out in Heaven and being like, “Bro, get to the point. I have lots of people to listen to right now and I really need you to spit it out.” I know that isn’t the reality but God knows our thoughts and feelings. He knows what is happening. Prayer is a chance to connect with Him and share our thoughts and feelings. The fanciness of our prayers has no bearing on His will.
For myself, I need to not allow my own learned bias on what prayer should be to discourage me from praying. Prayer is important. It isn’t something I can outsource or phone in. In fact, I need to put much more time and effort into prayer. It needs to be a central part of my life. Today I was introduced to the 3Ds of prayer:
The three Ds stand for Desire, Discipline, and Delight. First, and you cannot bypass this starting point, there needs to be Desire. Desire to be a person of prayer. Without that desire, nothing will ever change. You can’t force the desire, but you can ask God to plant that in you by his Spirit.– Rob White
Second, it requires Discipline. Actually, you could double the D and make it daily discipline. This is the hard part, as you’ve probably already discovered. But I want to assure you that as you face the discipline it gets a lot easier; you’ll find the third D eases it considerably.
The third D is Delight. Yes, truly prayer has become a delight for me: spending time with the Father, opening up my life with its ups and downs, and hearing what he has to say to me. What’s not to like? That means that I can look forward to praying; making my way toward the place where I usually pray I’m actually expecting that I’ll meet God during that time. What a change! It’s delightful.
Those are great. I don’t know that I struggle with desire or even delight but discipline is a challenge for me. I have a time in the morning set aside to pray but to really make prayer a bigger and more central part of my life I have to do better. I need to be diligent and disciplined about incorporating prayer throughout my day. I need to live a life where God is like a friend or companion with me all the time whom I am constantly communicating with. I don’t want prayer to simply be a 5 minute checklist item once a day. I want it to be a central part of my lifestyle.
I have seen the importance of prayer. I have read about the importance of prayer. I have even experienced it in my own life and yet I struggle to live the prayer life I know I need to live. I am encouraged today though this verse and the 3Ds. It is a good reminder that my prayer doesn’t have to be a certain way or look a certain way. To pray I don’t have to be on a stage. I don’t have to be fancy or eloquent. I need to connect with God and share my thoughts and feelings. I need to put the time and effort in and I need to listen and hear what he has for me. If I do this I know that there will be plenty to delight about!