Pastor Herb VanderBilt
East Nelson United Methodist Church
9024 18 Mile Rd. Cedar Springs
“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of the disciples said to him, ‘Lord, Teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, “When you pray, say Father…” (Luke 11: 1-2a.)
What follows these words is the very familiar words of the Lord’s Prayer, which is still an excellent model of how to pray today. So why did the disciples ask Jesus how to pray? Certainly prayer was not unusual in Jewish culture as there are several references to people praying. What was so different about Jesus and his prayers? The other question that came to me while I read these words again is how do we learn to pray? Is there a right way to pray? Why are people reluctant to pray aloud or to lead our groups to pray? These are all legitimate questions to ask ourselves during Lent, as we consider what part prayer takes in our Journey of Hope.
Many people, who grow up in the church, learn to pray as young children. I think the first prayer that I learned was at the dinner table, “God bless this food…” As adults however many people become uncomfortable when asked to pray or to pray aloud in public. According to the book that I am reading, Let the Whole Church Say Amen, by Lawrence Hall Stookey, one reason that so many people today are confused about how to pray is because they have never been taught. Just like the disciples, people need to have prayer modeled for them. One of the reasons many are hesitant to pray out loud is because people think that they have to pray “In King James” i.e. using thee or thou or wouldst or beseech, words that we really don’t use anymore. The reason Jesus’ disciples were so interested in learning how to pray like Jesus is that Jesus didn’t use extremely formal language to talk to God the Father; in fact he used the term “Abba,” which literally translated means “Daddy.” If a young child falls down and hurts himself, how does he talk to his parents? Does he say, “Father, if it is not too much trouble, can you consider coming to give me some help?” No, they most likely will say “Daddy, I am hurt, come help me!” Certainly we can pray to our Heavenly Father that way, too. Prayer is simply that—talking to God, the God who created us and formed us in his image. The God who has promised to always be with us, he doesn’t require a special invitation, so we don’t have to ask him to be with us, because he already is.
Prayer is like any other kind of speech or language; we need to practice. Practice praying, listening to Him and then teaching others. “For Yours is the kingdom, the Power and the Glory forever. Amen.”