When we forget to teach “how to” pray…


The topic of the day was prayer…I wouldn’t brag about anything that I ever said (or didn’t say)…all I know is that during the past summers, I’ve done a message series on frequently asked questions that I’ve heard from people over the years. I put out a flyer and ask for questions from people then try to take a week and address them in some way.  As you might guess, the questions range from “What’s the Trinity?” to “How do I know God’s will?”  I’ve spoken on questions regarding creation and evolution as well as other social issues.  But this year, I received two questions about prayer.  Now, understand my context here – this faith community I am doing life in the Spirit with now has a long and faithful denominational heritage.  In fact, I started out the talk with my story of how I grew up with an exposure to prayer but not any firm teaching on HOW to pray.  I asked casually, “how many of you share a good portion of my story?”  And the results were predictable…most of the people, over two thirds of the folks in attendance that day rose their hands.  One woman (of many that morning) came up to me and said, “me too Robin…no one ever taught me how to pray…I’m 76 years old…why did it take so long for someone to start to teach me.”  Friends, prayer shouldn’t be a “new subject” in a faith community…it should be one of the foundation stones on which is built a faithful life as a disciple.  Without being overtly trite, let me just say this – sometimes we are so busy playing church that we forget some of the basics about what it means to help each other as followers of Jesus to relationally connect with God and grow as a disciple.  But I digress…

Here’s a quick summary of what many of us experienced in our past – we heard prayers, we heard our pastor pray, we read prayers…but no one ever asked us to pray a prayer other than a quick bedtime, mealtime or recitation of the Lord’s prayer.  Like I said, there’s nothing wrong nor is my heart judgmental in this regard.  All I know is that I had an experience early on in my following of Jesus as Lord where I was asked in a group setting to participate in a group prayer…I did a quick dip stick check of my inner prayer resources and came up a few quarts low.  Truth is, in that situation, I was sweating bullets.  I had no idea that people prayed…that they prayed out loud…in relationships simply talking to God.  I’m not faulting anyone…all I know is that in MY tradition, that wasn’t the habit…that wasn’t the expectation.  So, when I was in high school, I enrolled in a “school of prayer”…no, not a literal school but I did read the bible about how Jesus taught His followers to pray, I read a couple of books, did some prayer journeys with others and asked questions and listened.  Slowly but surely prayer moved from being a chore or something only to be done in a formal worship service when someone with the right credential was around to being more of a daily exercise that became as natural as breathing.  Today, prayer is a varied but foundational experience in my life journey in the Lord…it is far from predictable or mono-facited…sometimes I write out prayers…sometimes I read prayer (through services, prayer books, and the offices)…sometimes I don’t say a thing in words and just sit in silence…sometimes I’ll use a “paradigm” of comprehensive prayer (e.g. the Lord’s Prayer or A.C.T.S. or T.R.I.P.) and talk to God that way…I still listen to people praying and learn something new everytime.  What concerns me most in the life of a faith community (i.e. local church) is that when people are not taught how to pray, how to “own” that prayer life and given challenges to grow in prayer, we miss out on teaching them and exposing them to the deeply relational aspect of our faith journey.  Without that relational factor, the faith journey is essentially bankrupt…it is purely cognitive experience devoid of the connectedness to God that brings and sustains life.  Try this out sometime – don’t talk to your spouse (or best friend, boss, or even children) for a few days…or better yet, write down three or four sentences and repeat them exclusively for a week or so and see how that works out relationally for you.  You know what will happen…you don’t even have to jump into those waters to discover it.  The relationship will start to falter and, worse yet, it will damage you more.  Over time, you’ll check out of the relationship because you believe that your quick repeated sentences have fulfilled your relational obligation.  The same is true for prayer…without teaching people how to pray…without modeling a vibrant experience of conversation and connectedness to God, we are essentially damning people to a less than fulfilling walk with the Lord. 

So, I've been thinking about this all week since last Sunday, a lesson well learned…again. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s