Learning to pray
December 13, 2005
I only read Matthew 6 lately. The parts about prayer. The more I think about it, the more convinced I get that there’s much hope in learning how to pray better, with less anxiety and with a sense of peace.
There’s some stuff I usually do when I pray. Here’s a summary:
- Say “Lord”, “God” and “Oh God” a lot.
- Talk a lot. Tell God about stuff I’m going through.
- Ask a lot (prayer requests).
- Quote some scripture here and there.
- Say thanks.
- Use an audible voice. That is, I pray out loud.
There’s nothing “wrong” with these things. I just don’t know if it’s the type of prayer Jesus taught us all to practice. From Matthew 6 I can see that Jesus first mentions what I should not do, then what I should do. It’s in a sense pretty simple. Ready?
Alright. Here’s what not to do:
And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others.
O.K. So the first thing I don’t want to do is to pray to be seen by others. I don’t want to get used to only praying in Church and in public places. It’s too easy to want to be seen by others. It’s so easy for me to want my prayer to stand out as a “good prayer”. So it seems like I want to avoid that.
O.K. So what do I want to do? What should I do then?
But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.
Oh. So different from what I do most of the time.
I am to go into my room, shut the door and pray to my Father who is in heaven. Heaven? No. I am to go into my room and pray to my father who is in
What is this place called “secret?” Is my room a secret place? No. Everyone knows my room. It’s no secret place.
I think I am the secret place. I am the temple of God, but I forget it daily. I am to go to the temple, shut the door and pray to my father who is inside! Wow.
I get that now. So now the question is, what do I say when I get there? What do I pray?
And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Woah. I’m not to “heap up empty phrases” to my Father who is inside me. Look at what the Modern King James Version says: “But when you pray, do not babble vain words.” I babble a lot sometimes. I think I have to say things to God, explain myself well. Pray enough so he can hear me. Turns out that I shouldn’t “think that I will be heard for my many words.”
I confess that it’s been an eternity since I thought of myself as the temple where God is. I don’t give thought to the truth that there’s a secret room where my Father is. A room that Jesus says I should go into and shut the door for prayer time.
In these verses I believe is the key to an approach to prayer that is free from the “prayer anxiety” of wanting to feel God, or knowing that He is there. It’s the perfect antidote to that anxiety and longing because he’s not “there” anywhere, He’s here. Inside the temple. So now I know what to do, I’ll just stay in Jerusalem a few more days… and if you go looking for me… I’ll be in the temple… doing my Father’s business.