By Joe McKeever
“When you pray, say , ‘Our Father….’” (Luke 11:2)
I used to have around fifty books on prayer. C. S. Lewis said he would never write one, but that’s been done for him posthumously. Someone took articles he wrote in various books and insights from his letters and assembled them into How to Pray, which Bertha and I are reading with enormous pleasure. (Most of my collection I gave away over the years as I down-sized my library twice.)
I fear with all the books on the subject that beginners may be scared away from serious praying, thinking it’s harder than it is, more complicated than it should be, and reserved just for the most religious among us. And what a tragedy that would be.
Prayer is for every child of God.
I love to find insights and encouragements in Scripture about prayer. One of the best is on display in the amazing and rich 8th chapter of Romans, everyone’s “mother lode” of treasures. It’s this…
–Romans 8:26 says that while we do not know how to pray as we should (we smile at the wonderful and honest admission), the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. I have no idea what that is like in the Throne Room of Heaven. But wait….
–Romans 8:34–just eight verses later–informs us that the Lord Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father interceding for us. So, we have the Spirit and the Son interceding for us. And if that’s not good enough…
–Romans 8:31–in the midst of these two verses–states that God is for us! (The “if” there means “since.” The apostle, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has just spent 30 verses establishing that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit is/are (take your pick) for us. And then, for the rest of the 8th chapter,, He draws conclusions from that.)
So, in that one chapter, Romans 8, we have God in all His Triune greatness on our side, for us, literally more pro-human than any unbelieving liberal on the planet ever dreamed of being. No one has ever done for humanity what our God has done. And He is the One who hears our prayers!
How blessed we are.
I like to think of our prayers as baby talk. Now, to a loving parent or doting grandparent, nothing is sweeter than the babblings of the infant.
In many cases, the mother knows what the baby is saying or wanting. She feeds the child, changes the diaper, picks him/her up to cuddle, or something else, all in response to the baby’s request.
God knows what we are saying, what we would say if we had the words, what we are feeling, how we are hurting, where we are aching, and what He wants to do in our lives.
The one thing God will not do, it appears from the consistent testimony of Scripture, is to force His blessings on us.
He brings them right up to our door and stops. He knocks and asks permission to enter with the blessings of Heaven. (Revelation 3:20).
He said to Jerusalem, “How often I would have blessed you–like a mother hen cuddling its baby chicks–but you were unwilling. So, now you are left to your own choices, and the news is not good.” (My paraphrase of Matthew 23:37).
And so, even though He knows what things we need before we ask (Matthew 6:8), He still waits for us to ask…
–“What do you want me to do for you?” (Luke 18:41)
–“You have not because you ask not” (James 4:2).
Go ahead and ask. Don’t complicate things.
Someone says, “But what if my request is wrong and not according to God’s will?” Answer: Then He won’t grant it! (Did you think He was duty-bound to grant a request that was wrong just because you asked so perfectly?)
There’s almost no way to get it wrong if you will pray sincerely, telling the Father what you are thinking, what’s on your mind, worshiping and praising Him.
My suggestion is that you ignore those who would insist you must use certain words, particular postures, their forms and formulae. Don’t argue with them; but keep doing what you are doing.
What’s keeping you from praying?
Joe McKeever is a cartoonist and past director of missions for New Orleans Baptist Association. This editorial first appeared at joemckeever.com.