July 23, 2019

Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord...

I'll bet most of you can repeat the rest of this nighttime prayer. Unfortunately this is as far as a lot of folks get in their prayer time. There are probably as many reasons for not praying as there are people who need to pray.

For some, prayer is foreign to them because they don't have a belief in God. For others, they believe in a God, but they do not believe their God cares enough for them to want to hear for them. Some think God can not possibly hear all the prayers of all the people on earth, there are just to many of us. Or perhaps they feel God is working on other situations much more important than yours. Maybe, they are like me, I just didn't know how to pray! I’ve been around men who gave long inspirational prayers; they covered all the bases, invoked the name of Jesus and God in the same prayer. When they finished, you wanted to give them a standing ovation. But for me, these prayers were validation I didn't know how to pray. I did not want to offend God with my awkward prayer. So I didn't pray.

Over the years, I have learned a few things about prayer. My prayer life has improved steadily. My relationship with God has improved. I feel better about talking to God. There are two passages in the scriptures which have been instrumental in improving my prayer life.

The first verses come from Jesus response when his disciples asked him to teach them how to pray. These verses are found in Matthew 6: 9-13, and Luke 11:2-4. Read also Matthew 6: 1-14 for a better understanding of Jesus teaching on this Prayer. Before going on, let me acknowledge there are slight differences in these two versions of the prayer. Additionally, the traditional ending of the prayer, "For thine in the kingdom and the power and the glory forever" is not in most translations of the scriptures. The King James Version translation does include it, although most scholars feel this ending was added some 400 years later. If you really want to delve into the Lord's Prayer from a scholarly standpoint, I suggest you begin with the Wikipedia article on the Lord"s Prayer.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord%27s_Prayer

So how have these verses changed my prayer life? Let me refer you to one more verse. Mark 14:36. Jesus is praying in the Garden of Gethsemane just before the guards come to arrest him. He addresses God as, "Abba, father..." Abba is Aramaic for father. But it suggests a more intimate relationship than does the formal term Father. My mother's husband was my biological father, but more importantly, he was my Abba, my daddy. The revelation of God as my daddy, has made my prayers to him so much easier. I do not need to be formal in my conversations, using the proper words in the correct order and with the proper deference. I don't have to follow a set formula or pattern for my conversation with my Abba. I can speak to God as my daddy, who hears me and understands what I am trying to say even though the words are not correct.

Verse 7 has been especially important to me. I was talking to God one day while driving. I remember feeling a voice within me saying, "Shut up, you talk too much!" Immediately verse 7 came to mind, "and when you pray do not keep on babbling like the pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words." Duh! So now I spend more time being quiet in prayer. God knows what I need before I ask it so why shouldn't I be quiet and let God talk to me about whatever he feels I need to hear?

The second verses come from Hebrews 7:25. The writer says Jesus is our High Priest who is there to save us completely when we come through him, But the verse also says Jesus "always lives to intercede" for us (NIV)  I looked up this passage in several translations and the word "intercede" is in all of them. In relation to prayer, the word "intercede" is important. It means Jesus is there to stand between us and God and intercede for us when we pray. I can use the wrong words and use words incorrectly and not show proper deference and generally mess up in my prayer and Jesus stands there to interpret my words and make them correct before God. Jesus lived as a human, knowing our pain, our joys, our temptations, our attitudes, our clumsiness, our ego, our ambitions, our doubts, our thoughts, everything about us. And he knows our heart! We can be assured, God knows us and our pleadings because Jesus is there to intercede for us! Isn't that a great and conforming feeling?   

1 comment:

  1. This post really speaks to me! I didn't grow up hearing my family members pray out loud, except to say grace....or teach me "now I lay me down to pray.." so I often have the feelings expressed in this blog. Sometimes my prayer words flow easily but way too often, I find myself going in circles or letting my mind wander! I'm glad to hear others go through much the same thing. I have found that at times beginning my prayers singing a favorite praise song such as " Change My Heart Oh God
    Make It Ever True
    Change My Heart Oh God
    May I Be Like You
    Change My Heart Oh God
    Make It Ever True
    Change My Heart Oh God
    May I Be Like You
    You Are The Potter
    I Am The Clay
    Mold Me And Make Me
    This Is What I Pray
    Change My Heart Oh God
    Make It…..." helps me feel closer to God and my words come more easily.
    Thanks for reminding us that even if we stutter, stammer or even sigh or moan our Father hears us and knows our hearts !


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