Have you struggled with prayer? Does prayer seem like an exercise in eloquent speech that you just don’t possess?
Prayer is not a mysterious practice reserved only for clergy and the religiously devout. Prayer is simply communicating with God— It is a two-way conversation, listening and talking to God. Believers can pray from the heart, freely, spontaneously, and in their own words.
Leading Corporate prayers in worship offers a special challenge for some. Corporate prayer is not a sermon to the congregation. Again, it is conversation with God, not the congregation, so the intercessor doesn’t explain the reason particular prayers are used. The intercessor gathers together the prayers of thanks and needs of the community… according to that persons understanding. We add our own petitions in silence. It is inappropriate to pull them up and admonish them for not including a particular concern on our own hearts.
Shared/group prayers are similar, but as we converse with God, we allow others to hear our thanksgiving or matters of concern, thus inviting them to add their prayers to ours.
Personal prayer is as individual and private as our relationship with God. We can trust that our prayers are safe with God and that God understands our deepest needs and desires no matter how inadequate we feel.
In the gospel for today (Luke 11:1-13) Jesus offers a way of prayer. It includes addressing God according to the relationship we share; there is praise and thanksgiving, prayer for our needs, and acknowledgement that all things are in the hands of God. I love the following prayer of Thomas Merton (1915 – 1968)…
MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
From Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander