KICK START QUESTION: WHAT IS THE EASIEST WAY TO LEARN TO PRAY?
My favorite preacher outside of our community, Tim Keller, said the one thing he would have done earlier in ministry, in order to make all other things easier, would have been to develop a more robust prayer life. Seems like a very churchy thing to say, but if God truly is the I AM, the Ultimate Reality, the Ground of All Being, then plugging into that person daily in relational conversation, would in fact make all of life easier and better.
The catalyst for Keller was praying through the Psalms. I recently took his advice and spent 2016 praying through the Psalms, and it was a beautiful experience. If you want to learn to pray, you could do much worse than investing the $30 or so to buy these resources to help:
My favorite preacher in our community developed this excellent resource on prayer, and it is absolutely free: ONE LIFE PRAYER GUIDE
As always however, the best place to turn for learning to pray is to the author and perfector of our faith…Jesus. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke both record the disciples asking Jesus to teach them how to pray. His answer is remarkable in his directness. Most often in reply to questions, Jesus responds with a question of his own or with a story (parable). This approach allows for a process of discovery that leads to ownership of faith.
With prayer Jesus straight up tells them how. It is almost as if he is saying prayer is too important for misinterpretation, I will give you clear instruction on this particular one. Jesus then models what is famously known as the Lord’s Prayer. Here is a link to a teaching for help on how to use the Lord’s Prayer as a guide for your prayer life:
There’s three easy and useful tools on prayer. Any or all would start you down a great path. To close this post down, I’d like to leave you with three thoughts of my own on prayer that surround Jesus’ teaching on prayer—for all the “how-to’s” in the world, these must shape the basis for prayer.
1. No religious act can replace genuine relationship (Luke 10:38-42). The story directly preceding the Lord’s Prayer is also well known, the story of two sisters, Marth and Mary. Martha is running around doing all the tasks preparing for Jesus’ arrival, while Mary simply goes out to be with Jesus. So many rich lessons in this text, but specifically with prayer, nothing will ever replace proximity to Jesus. You want a vibrant prayer life? Be with Jesus. Don’t wait until your house is in order—i.e. until you learn to “pray right”—just go sit at the feet of Jesus and be present. Your prayer life will blossom and flower from there.
2. Keep seeking through the silence (Luke 11:5-10). The very next story Jesus tells after teaching on prayer anticipates and answers a lived experience we will all have as we engage with prayer—there will be times and seasons when it seems like no one is home! In spite of this, the encouragement is to unabashedly, unashamedly, unrelentingly keep pounding at the door. The promise is that it will be answered. If you give up and leave, you will miss out when it is opened in the Father’s perfect way and timing and His will is revealed.
3. Trusting in the Father’s Goodness (Luke 11:11-13. Jesus ends with trusting, as an active verb. Trusting in the Father’s Goodness is where faith and understanding of the Big Story of Scripture comes into play. Jesus asks a rhetorical question—you father’s, which of you would give your child a snake if they ask for a fish? No! Fathers give good gifts out of their endless love. How much more the source of all Goodness, our Father in Heaven! Relinquishing our desires and placing our trust in the goodness of God is the hardest part of prayer, but possible when we turn to Jesus on the Cross, where the fullness of God’s Goodness is revealed.
Relationship, seeking and trust. These three form the foundation that allows for an easy prayer life. How very difficult they are! And if you ever worry that you are not a good at prayer, heed the words of Eugene Peterson who responds, “That’s OK, Jesus is prayer for you!”