For me, prayer was something which was dull and boring. Whenever someone mentioned prayer I literally felt bored. If someone invited me to a prayer meeting I would desperately struggle to fill that time slot with something else so I could say I was busy! It was something I had to do as a Christian. From talking with people it is clear that I am not the only one who held this view. I know that there will be people reading this who fell that exact way about prayer!
Now the dictionary definition of prayer doesn’t do it many favours, it defines prayer as “a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or another deity”. That definition really does nothing to make me want to devote time each and every day to prayer. It’s basically saying that prayer is a very formal and dignified request system! I have come to realise that in order to fully understand and enjoy prayer we have to redefine what we see prayer as.
Every major world religion, including Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism, is based on people desperately trying to get to God. When you look at the ‘prayers’ of these religions you can see this truth reflected. Christianity, however, is all about the God of the universe coming to get us, coming to meet us where we are at so he can bring us to where he is. From darkness to light, from death to life, from slavery to freedom. It is an amazing thing!
Our prayers should flow from this relationship, but so often they just fall under the category of religious duty. If Christianity stands out from all other world religions for the reasons stated above, then surely the prayers of Christians should reflect this!
Jesus says this to his disciples in Matthew 6:5-8;
“And 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. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then you Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!”
I love how clear Jesus is. Prayer is not a public thing we do for personal glory, it’s a private thing we do for our own personal relationship with God. We don’t do it to gain the attention of men, we do it because we have the attention of God.
He goes on to say not to be like the people of other religions, he doesn’t want a repetitive jumble of religious verbal diarrhoea! People of other religions pray in order to desperately try and reach God, we should pray because God came down and reached us in our desperate and sinful state! As I said earlier, our prayers should not form part of a religious duty but should flow from a relationship with God. It is not something you have to do, but is something you get to do.
When it comes to prayer, we must learn to lose our religion.