The Do’s and Don’ts of Prayer

In the name of one God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen

This is a service of prayer. We know that because it says so on page 75.
• There is the prayer we pray to confess our sins
• We pray the Lord’s Prayer
• We pray together the suffrages
• There are several collects we pray including the collect of the day, the collect for Sundays, the collect for transition, the collect for guidance
• We offer our intercessions
• We pray the Great Thanksgiving together
• We end the service in prayer

That is at least 10 prayers during the service.

Does that seem like a lot to anyone? Is it just right? Is it too many?

And, while we are on the subject of prayer, I have a confession to make…
I sometime feel like I do not spend enough time in prayer. Really, sometimes, I question my spiritual life in the context of time spent in prayer. I am serious.

Do YOU ever feel that way too?

It begs these questions…
• How much time should I spend praying?
• What should I be praying for?
• Should I ask or thank more?
• What is okay to ask for and what should I leave alone?

This praying business can be complicated and full of doubts and questions… especially if you overthink it like I have a tendency to do from time to time with things.

And…LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THERE IS NO LACK OF INSTRUCTION ON THIS TOPIC EITHER!

Let’s take a look at my library…
• Prayer at Night’s Approaching
• Rooted in Love – Meditations and Prayers for Youth Leaders
• Footprints
• The Inner Voice of Love
• The Power of a Praying Husband
• The Power of a Praying Wife
• Toward Holy Ground
• One Mountain, Many Paths – Autographed Copy even
• My Soul in Silence Waits
• Let Your Life Speak

All these books either
to teach me to pray or
to give me prayers so I don’t have to think of one or
maybe to inspire me
or what?
You know, if you let it, this is confusing, intimidating and perhaps a real turn off to religion and faith.

Earlier this week, I was reading my Facebook page and there was this ad that had a headline that said, “7 Ways Not to Pray.”

Well, could you resist investigating further? I could not! I went to the website this ad was affiliated with quite quickly and I am proud of it!

The presentation of the list was a slide show. That means that you were presented with one element of the 7 ways and then you had to click to move to the next page and get the next no-no on the list.

I am going to share that list with you in a minute but I have to tell you that in between item #3 and item #4, there was an ad for a smoking cessation technique. So this website was not only interested in your prayer life but that are concerned for your health as well.

So, here is the list…

7 Ways Not to Pray
(Website) is the most comprehensive online resource for inspiration and spirituality. With a mission to help people find and walk a spiritual path that instills comfort, hope, strength and happiness for people who are exploring their own faith or are curious about others, (Website) is the leading source of spiritual information presented without a defined editorial point-of-view. Whether you’re looking for spirituality, health and wellness, entertainment or more, (Website) has something for everyone.

1. Ostentatious Exclamations – Hallelujah! Yes, Jesus! Good God! Been So Good! So Good God! Thank you! Hallelujah! Every. Five. Seconds. Is this a prayer or a James Brown concert?

2. Talking Under Your Breath – Wha…Wha…What?!? I can’t hear you! Mumbling under your breath while praying out loud, especially if leading group prayer, is not cool. When no one can hear you, we miss the message (I think I heard Amen).

3. Squinched Eyes – Do you ever see people praying with their eyes squinched so tight it’s like they’re trying to peer into heaven? Why so tense? Praying is supposed to bring calm, so calm your eyes. It’s really your mouth and ears that are needed most in times of prayer; to speak, then listen.

4. Cursing – At one point in time during your Christian walk, you have been angry at God, or just plain angry. Even though the lines of communication are always open with Him, that doesn’t mean we should become lax in our speech or reverence. Maybe just talking about the situation is making you heated and you start mouthing off obscenities. @$%#! How about you pray a little later…

5. Asking for Material Things You Don’t Really Need – Hey God, I really need to win this $100 million dollar lottery. Please let me get the right numbers! God, I really need the Patriots to win this game tonight. See, I bet a few hundred on them, and I just can’t lose against my best friend. He will be bragging for days! Oh, and by the way, can you send me a guardian angel?

6. It’s Never-Ending – If your prayer is spilling over into the 30 minute mark… still praying… STILL praying… STILL PRAYING.

7. Scripted Like an Actor – Most prayers come straight from the heart and aren’t prepared in advance. That said, prayers aren’t meant to be acted out like a Shakespearean play or as if you’re on Broadway.

As you likely do, I have some problems with this list. I do not think this is the time or place for me to air those problems, but be assured friends, I do have problems with this list.

You see, when I really examine my prayer life and I really think about it objectively and with a critical eye, I ease up on my personal criticism of my discipline.

Let’s go back to the questions I ask myself about prayer…
• How much time should I spend praying?
• What should I be praying for?
• Should I ask or thank more?
• What is okay to ask for and what should I leave alone?

Now, let me tell you what I believe… and remember, what I believe is personal to me. You may agree and you may think I have no idea.
And if you think I have no idea, please come and tell me and help me grow. Because friends, while we often find God’s answers when we’re alone, more often we find God’s answers in each other.

I think there is only one rule about prayer. It is a conversation with God or Jesus or even a sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit. And, for it to be effective, your heart and your mind need somehow be connected.
That connection may be very strong sometimes and at other times, barely hanging on.

It seems to me that what or who you pray for is not essential to successful prayer but simply that your impulse for that prayer is from genuine love of God and each other.

I had a friend one time. We were very close. We often shared our spiritual thoughts and ideas. We shared dreams and we shared heartache.
John, my friend, lived in Bethesda. We did not see each other more than once or twice per year. But, with the magic of email, Facebook, the internet, and even real telephone conversations; there was much discourse between us.

3 years ago, John was diagnosed with a brain tumor. We continued our conversations as best we could but his decline was rapid. He died less than two months after the diagnosis.

We still have our conversations. They are one sided mostly but before John died, he wrote a composition/poem, if you will that I would like to share.
It is entitled,

I Pray on Escalators

I am always in a hurry
I never have enough time
How could I possibly have time to pray like I should?
How can I possibly be aware of the other people in the world?
Those who need my prayers the very most, and have the time to follow through on it?
Well…
There is a time when I have this time by myself
There is a time when I am aware of other people
There is a time when I wonder about other people and their needs
It is on the escalators in the Metro system. I have at least eight such opportunities – two rides down, and two rides back up, twice a day.
What do I pray for – what should you pray for?
Well, to start, look at the other people on the escalator – either going the other way, or those rushing and bumping past you.
Go ahead and look at them.
I find myself wondering:
What are their needs?
Are they sick?
Are they happy?
Are they grieving?
Are they hungry?
How are their families – if they have families?
Do they have nice clothes – or not enough clothes?
Are they undocumented immigrants?
What can I do – what should I do? I can pray about any and all of this.
Try it yourself: This opportunity also presents itself while riding on the Metro and on buses. There are times for prayer on elevators, too, and also at stop lights, while standing in line, or on hold on the telephone.
We are blessed with an abundance of opportunities to pray (even while waiting for the trainee at the Post Office to figure out what combination of stamps is needed to put $2.44 on an envelope).
We can all learn – and start availing ourselves of these wonderful opportunities in our lives.
– – – – – – –
Prayer is personal. And it is personal time between you and God. And here is the good news…it is up to you and God to make the rules. But you have to be in conversation first.

Amen.

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