When My Parents Taught Me NOT to Pray the Lord’s Prayer

fireOne of the home runs my parents hit in my spiritual upbringing was teaching my younger brother and I to pray well.

No excuses, no cop-outs. Every night, we’d hit our knees by our bedside, no matter how tired we were, no matter how late it was or where we’d just driven in from. We’d pray, and like many things my parents taught us to do, we’d pray with intentionality, with conscientious effort.

That’s why they often wouldn’t allow us to pray the Lord’s Prayer, no matter how often we asked to.

That might sound a little weird. But back then, we weren’t begging them to allow us the Lord’s Prayer because we understood the power, simplicity, and holiness of it. We were begging for it because we’d memorized it, and thus it was shorter and easier. And, of course, we were always looking for the path of least effort as kids. It’s one of the back-door counters Satan brings to use of Scripture: rote memorization can be a counterfeit to true engagement with God.

Instead, Mom and Dad had us pray consciously, using our own ideas, perhaps utilizing a list (good strategy), only occasionally reciting the Lord’s Prayer and calling it a night.

OUR Lord Jesus declared that “men ought always to pray and not to faint,” and the parable in which his words occur, was taught with the intention of saving men from faintheartedness and weakness in prayer. Our Lord was seeking to teach that laxity must be guarded against, and persistence fostered and encouraged. … Cold prayers have no claim on heaven, and no hearing in the courts above. Fire is the life of prayer, and heaven is reached by flaming importunity rising in an ascending scale. – E.M. Bounds

There’s a lot of mystery in prayer, but I’ve oft wondered how many points we Christians leave on the field through prayer that is glancing, distracted, half-formed. I’ll tell you right now, if I want to find fascinating things to daydream about, or suddenly gain great clarity on a totally irrelevant matter, or remember all the things I need to do tomorrow, all I need to do is start praying; Satan instantly partners with my own mind to distract me with all this other stuff.

I know we have the encouragement that the Spirit “also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groaning” (Romans 8:26), but that verse is not describing laziness in prayer. That’s something we need to deal with. God has extended us a bridge; the need is great. Why do we dither about?

Today, if I pray the Lord’s Prayer, I do so because I understand it and have been trained in its meaning. May we all be lit on fire this week to pray as if we mean it.

 

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Fostering a “Let’s Pray Right Now” Culture

prayerIt is under the vaguely pleasant tingling of a mild sunburn (youth group car wash) that I write to you this morning, dear readers, and I wish to talk about a “let’s pray right now” culture.

The other day, I walked past this guy speaking with a friend in church and saying “…let’s pray about it right now”. Heads bowed, eyes closed, right there.

I don’t know what the need was, but I know this is quite commonplace in my church. Right there, right then, in the middle of everything going on, we will often pray for each other’s needs, even if it is a remote uncle with an optimistic minor surgery. Not just because it comforts the person whose uncle it is, but because we believe prayer makes a difference. It is one of my greatest joys in belonging to this church family.

I used to think it was commonplace throughout Christendom.

But during my travels, I discovered differently. I found churches where apathy met even dire prayer requests. I found believers who, trying far too hard to sound smart, waxed philosophical in debates about whether it actually bore any power to pray for someone you didn’t know.

But most of all, I found countless promises of “I’ll be praying about that”.

Why say that? Why not do it right there? Embarrassment? Inconvenience? What great cost is charged to you to obey God’s command to pray without ceasing? And are we so boorish that we won’t drop a friend (or even a stranger) the slightest goodwill?

The other big problem with this, of course, is that we rarely ever do pray. We forget. We go on with our daily grind and forget. Don’t we?

My father taught me to keep a prayer list so that I wouldn’t forget. So, of course, I forget to keep a list.

Which is doubly ironic given that we all have electronic list-making tools in our pockets these days.

I don’t want to live in oblivion any more. I want to be intentional, determined, and opposed to laziness in my prayer life. We owe it to our brothers and sisters in Christ as an obedience to our command to love; we owe it to the lost as a witness; and we owe it to God, for it proves that we actually take gifts like prayer seriously.

Let us foster a “let’s pray right now” culture in our own spheres. It isn’t going to kill us. In fact, it might save someone.