Monday, October 10, 2011
Lord, Teach Us to Pray
The disciples marveled at the Master's night-long absences in prayer. He would return seemingly rested the next dawn and prepared with that relaxed calm for any eventuality. They had only seen scholarly rabbis approach a degree of confidence anywhere close. But they had always couched their pronouncements with the support of precedent. "Rabbi X would say this." "Or Rabbi Y would argue that."
But Jesus would give a description of the Father's outlook on some issue, and then add, "And I say unto you, thus and so..." Surely this boldness had come about after much serious and complicated formulaic prayer, or so they thought.
I remember a book by the evangelist Mel Tari suggesting how very relaxed, honest and intimate Jesus' prayers must have been (The Gentle Breeze of Jesus). Any father loves the time when a child crawls up onto his lap, just to be there, just to express his heart. The Father, by gesture or by simple affectionate word, will impart wisdom and comfort which will have magnified effect in this atmosphere of love.
Jesus' model prayer, called the Lord's Prayer, was more an impression of reverence and humble familial trust than it was a piece to be memorized. It's essentials, the unfolding Kingdom, the keeping care of the Father, the humble submission of the child, the mutual pact of forgiveness, the irrepressible plan for the Father's glory.
Jesus held repetitive, formulaic prayer in low esteem. Rather it should be simple, from the heart, direct in choice of words and filled with intervals of listening, of waiting for the Father's input.
Look at some of the other successful prayers in the Bible. Jehoshaphat preparing for battle, "Lord we don't know what to do; nevertheless our eyes are upon you" (2 Chronicles 20:12). The silent inarticulate prayers of Hannah mourning in the temple over her barrenness (1 Samuel 1: 11-17). The cry for healing of blind Bartimaeus, "Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me" (Mark 10:46-48). The worship of the one repentent thief at Calvary, "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom." (Luke 23:42). Simple...all simple and heartfelt. A drawing close with delight to the loving attentiveness of Divinity.
And oh yes, Christians pray. They pray often.