Effective Prayer--Part One

As far as I know, prayer has been around for a very long time. How would you describe prayer? What purpose does it have in your life? And, how often do you pray? Depending on your cultural and religious background, your answers will vary.

Prayer could be something that you religiously attend to at certain times of day and say in a precise, formal way. It could be something you engage in only in times of desperation. Or you could have a very informal, Jesus in Jeans, type of prayer life that keeps God around as a constant companion.

The point is that prayer is a very personal individual thing. It could be guided by formal religious requirements or be a result of a personal intimate experience with God. Or, it could be a combination of the two or even possibly nothing like either of these at all.

In its simplest definition we could think of prayer as our thoughts extended Godward, our desire to communicate with All That Is. Prayer can include worship, but it is not limited to worship. In fact, if we could listen in to most prayers, I doubt they would have very little to do with worship, but more often have to do with asking.

Which brings me to my point. We often use prayer as a desperate means to make sense of our lives—we our asking for help or bartering with God. “Please, help me to get out of this mess”. Or, “If you will only do this for me, then I will do this for you.” And then there is the prayer to straighten things out in other people’s lives, “Please help so and so to see what they are doing wrong and turn around their life.”

It is not wrong to ask for help, don’t misunderstand. But if we could listen in on God’s end of the line sometimes we might get a better picture of how much we talk and how little we listen. If we were really seeking solutions to our prayers we would think carefully about what God actually has control over, given our free choice, and what God might do to help us out.

We are often asking for things that go contrary to the very choices we have made and continue to make. God cannot move against our very own choices. And God cannot intervene in the free will of another person.

Come to think of it, many times our prayers are not about seeking intimate relationship with God, but they are a means to relinquish responsibility for the mess we have created in our lives by the exercise of our own free choice.

In the next few postings I will share a few ideas on prayer and how to pray more effectively. In the meantime, take a listen to your own prayers and see what you might learn from them.