One day Jesus was praying in a certain place.
When he finished, one of his disciples said to him,
"Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples."
He said to them, "When you pray, say:
" 'Father, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.' "
Luke 11v1-4 [TNIV]
It's hard to pray. But it's a good hard. It's good for us to pray, and it's good for those for whom we're praying. But it's hard to keep praying - too many distractions, difficult to stay focused, we get sleepy, we wonder whether God is listening or if our prayers matter. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not very good at praying. I try, but I give up too easily - praying is hard work! It takes energy, it takes focus, it takes time, it takes heart, it takes patience, it takes listening, it takes hoping, it takes work.
I've found myself resorting to saying the Lord's Prayer a lot. Usually several times a day. Maybe like you, you find yourselves in a situation, or reflecting on a conversation or experience...you want to pray about it/the person, but not sure what to say. Or I get angry, I get worried, I get irritated, I get impatient, I get despairing, etc. - and I feel the Spirit tugging...but I don't know what to say to God...so I work my way through the Lord's Prayer. Or when I want to hear from God...I work my way through the Lord's prayer - working to hear what He's saying to me through His words.
The Lord's Prayer is concise and recorded differently in two different gospels - with this effect: the Lord's Prayer is not a magic incantation that must be phrased perfectly in order for it to work; the Lord's Prayer avoids the impulse for us to speak many words hoping to get God's attention or favor. The Lord's Prayer is about ideas, about truths, about insight into what God cares about and what he is always doing in the world whether we pray or not. When I - you - pray the Lord's Prayer, we connect with what God cares about most...which is vital, since we are praying in order to share with God what we care about most.
Sometimes prayer can get stale because our prayers are usually pretty self-centered. Even if we pray for others, somehow the prayer is about us. Not always, but we can get that way. The Lord's Prayer is implicitly God centered - about him as our good and great Father who cares for us in ways we cannot fully grasp; it is about him working to feed everyone, about him working to reconcile everyone, about him working to overcome evil with good for everyone. When we begin to care more about these things in our life and in our world, we will find more of our prayers being answered. But then, it's not really about whether our prayers get answered, it's really more about are we joining in on what God is doing...what he wants to do in us and through us.
God works through people. Christ is the head, we are the body, and the Spirit is God in us. God answers prayer through people. When we pray to God, he works to answer it through somebody. Maybe it's you. You are the answer to prayer! When you pray for God to intervene in someone's life, to do something good for somebody, to protect, help, etc. - it is very likely that God has in mind for you to help make that answer happen. Prayer takes on a very personal, unselfish dimension when we pray for others with the intent of helping fulfill our own request.
Prayer is not so much about us getting God to do what we want him to do for us or others. Prayer is about connecting with what God is already doing...and what he would like to do in us and through us unto others. The Lord's Prayer reveals to us God's heart and ways: in essence we already know what God wants for us - what we're looking for is wisdom on what that means for us here and now. If we emerge into this way of praying, prayer becomes easier and harder...what used to make prayer hard is no longer the case: we're not bored with praying anymore. Now we're scared about what might happen next in our life if we give more of ourselves to being the answer to our own prayers and to God's way/work in the world.
How would your prayer life changed if you quit praying for a good day, safety, and quick recovery in the hospital for people that you know who are ill or hurt. What else would you pray for? What else do you care about? What are other people going through that requires not only prayer but your personal intervention? Or are your prayers about God making your life more convenient, more pleasurable, more successful? What if prayer is about getting a more messy life, a more complicated life, a more confusing life? What if prayer was not about life working out the way you dream, but about dealing with reality and what God is needing you to do next with the people around you?
...your kingdom come...in me...through me ...in this life...and the one to come...
Be the Anchor: Pray!
Be the Pray-er...
Be The Answer to Your Prayers...