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What should I say when I pray?

05.21.19 | Prayer | by Rev. Phil Dieke

What should I say when I pray?

    When I find myself in a season of life where I do not know what to pray (and there have been many), I return to the Lord’s Prayer.

    He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”  He said to them, “When you pray, say…”

    Luke 11:1-2

    Prayer is one of many mysteries when it comes to our faith. How should I pray? How often should I pray? Should I pray in public? In private? What should I say when I pray?

    It might be reassuring to know Jesus’ very own disciples asked the same questions. They often saw Jesus praying, so they knew there was value in prayer, but they struggled with the mechanics and many of the very same questions we wrestle with today.

    Jesus responds with a very specific prayer, which has been deemed, the “Lord’s Prayer.” It is relatively brief, yet it covers a lot of theological ground. It acknowledges God as being worthy of praise and is aspirational and hopeful that this world can be better than it is.

    Our Father who is in heaven,
    uphold the holiness of your name.
    10 Bring in your kingdom
    so that your will is done on earth as it’s done in heaven.
    11 Give us the bread we need for today.
    12 Forgive us for the ways we have wronged you,
    just as we also forgive those who have wronged us.
    13 And don’t lead us into temptation,
    but rescue us from the evil one.

    Matthew 6:9-13

    The Lord’s Prayer recognizes and requests our most basic needs, humbles us to admit our need to forgive and be forgiven, and petitions God for guidance amidst all that would distract us from God’s good purpose for us.

    When I find myself in a season of life where I do not know what to pray (and there have been many), I return to the Lord’s Prayer. It is a prayer I have taught to, and pray regularly with, my daughters. It is a prayer that keeps me connected, even grounded in my faith. No doubt the Lord’s Prayer has been, and will continue to be, a staple of my faith.

    However, there are also times it feels like nothing more than a rote prayer, just words I say, but don’t seem to have meaning. Prayer in general often feels that way for me.

    Some days, there is meaning and I can pray with confidence. Other days, I lack confidence and struggle to find meaning, yet I pray as an act of obedience and faith. Still, there are other days when I can’t do it. The words won’t come, and if they do, they feel pointless, like they aren’t accomplishing anything.

    During these difficult days, rather than giving up on prayer, I have explored new ways to pray. Prayers that don’t require words. Thomas Keating said, “Silence is God’s first language, everything else is a poor translation.”

    On the days I can’t find words, or the words seem pointless, I turn to silence. Rather than talk, I listen. Rather than assuming there is something I need to say or do, I rest in being — in being alive, in breathing. I don’t worry about getting the words right, I simply sit, listen, and allow God to work in me and transform me, one breath at a time.

    When the questions of how, when, and what to pray get you down, I encourage you to find a quiet place and enter into the silence. If silence is God’s first language, it may lead to the best conversation you’ve ever had with God.

    Honest to God Sermon Series

    It’s okay to ask questions. Yes, even the difficult ones about God and faith. In our current sermon series, “Honest to God,” Rev. Paul Rasmussen and Rev. Matt Tuggle answer some of the tough questions that we all have.

    Get caught up with the series


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