Sometimes we overcomplicate prayer. We surround it with rules about how we think it’s supposed to be and it therefore becomes beyond what we can manage. We then beat ourselves up telling ourselves we’re just not spiritual enough to pray like other people seem to.
Yet, this is a lie that the devil wants us to believe so we become defeated in prayer and we lose the chance of that intimacy with God. Prayer doesn’t need to be complicated – let’s get back to the roots of Simple Prayer
Do you know there’s nothing I like more than a nice relaxing chat with a close friend over a good cup of coffee.
Put me in a room full of people at a party, or refreshments time at the end of church where mingling is the name of the game, and I’m way out of my comfort zone.
Yet, chatting face to face with a close friend or two, laughing and sharing what’s close to our hearts is one of my favourite things.
Admittedly, post-children it hasn’t been as relaxing as I would like and is invariably punctuated by the screams of “He took my Buzz Lightyear!”, but nevertheless it’s still valuable to my sanity and well-being.
Simple Prayer is Conversation
Simple prayer is not much different to chatting over coffee with a close friend really and yet somehow we often seem to make it so much more. We feel like we have to stick to some kind of formula, make our prayers a certain length and use “spiritual” language.
We become restricted by the expectations we place upon ourselves and miss the fact that all God wants is for us to simply come.
Jesus said, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” Matthew 6:5-8
Simple prayer is real
It’s funny I often come before God praying all the things I think I ought to be praying rather than the stuff that’s on my mind.
You see the things that I often have going on in my head are not necessarily what I think I should be sharing with God.
They might be feelings that I know are perhaps a bit unjustified, but I feel them anyway.
They might be things that I’m worried about but seem too trivial to be bothering God over.
They might be things that I’ve done that I’m ashamed of.
Despite the fact that I know God is gracious and loves me completely I still tend to put on spiritual airs and graces around Him instead of just being myself.
Yet, as Jesus reminds us our Father knows what we need and what is on our hearts before we even tell Him, so pretending to be something we’re not is crazyness. I’m trying to learn that I don’t need to pretend with God, that I can come before Him just as I am, tell Him whatever is on my heart and He will listen and guide me gently and lovingly.
Simple prayer isn’t fancy
Do you know people who are really eloquent in prayer? Maybe when it comes to praying in public you’re a particular eloquent pray-er yourself. Praying beautiful prayers led by the Holy Spirit can be a gift and a blessing to those who are praying with us, but there are cautions to this type of prayer as Jesus warns in this part of the Sermon on the Mount.
One question which has to be asked is what are the motives for praying expressive prayers?
Is it to bring people closer to God or to impress them with an ability to write or speak poetically?
Another problem with this type of prayer is that it raises the bar for everyone else. It can lead others into thinking that their prayers are somehow inadequate if they don’t match the same kind of eloquent language.
Simple prayer is honest
The Psalms are full of honest prayers where people didn’t always say holy things.
Not that I’m advocating it as a model for our own prayers, but how often do you read the psalmists imploring God to bring vengeance down on their enemies in the most vicious ways possible? Whilst this is not instruction for how we should treat our enemies, it does remind us that we don’t need to put on a mask with God even when it comes down to those feelings that we’re not particularly proud of.
Even Jesus was honest when He was praying to His Father in Gethsemane sharing the pain and anguish that He was feeling about His forthcoming death. Yet, He surrendered it all to the Father’s will and that’s the key thing to being honest with God. Tell Him all your fears, problems, bad feelings etc but at the end of pouring it out pray “Not my will, but Yours be done.”
We can sit down and have extended times of prayer with God or we can chat to Him as our companion throughout the day. Sure it is an awesome privilege to be able to talk to our Maker, God of the Universe but He is also someone who calls us friends and we can feel at ease, have intimacy and most of all be ourselves.
(This series Pause for Prayer is a series that we published early on in the life of Essential Thing Devotions that has been updated, revised and refreshed for all the people who missed it first time round.)
Photo used with permission by Michaela Kobyakov courtesy of Stock.Xchng