“We should approach God with great simplicity, speaking to Him frankly and plainly…” —Brother Lawrence, Practice The Presence of God
If I have learned anything over the last several months, it’s that Christ bids us to pray very, very simply.
The vast majority of my “prayer life” has been complicated by trying to string together compelling words and phrases in order to clearly communicate my feelings to God. For some reason, I have been under the impression that if I could just find the right words to emotionally move my heart in prayer, then surely, God’s heart would be moved as well. If I could just voice how terribly sorry or how overwhelmingly thankful I was, then God would be sure to understand and favor my cry.
Over time, I found myself speaking to God as if He needed to be both persuaded and convinced to listen to me. My words felt more like pleading with a judge than praying to my Father. I was constantly wrestling with finding the most eloquent sentences to pray to emotionally convince myself that God heard and accepted my prayers. Although this produced wonderfully sounding prayers, I eventually became weary of my words.
So, I’ve thrown in the towel.
In Matthew 6, Jesus teaches His disciples (and us) how to pray. After warning them not to pray to impress men, He then warns them against praying to impress God when He says:
“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him…” (Mt. 6:7-8, ESV)
Because the Father already knows what His children need before they ask, Jesus then makes it refreshingly clear how simply we can pray by modeling a 30 second prayer starting with “Our Father…” However, this prayer has been recited and remembered because if it’s semantics instead of considered because of it’s simplicity.
In the past, I have been guilty in thinking that the more eloquent and wordy a prayer was, the more effective and righteous it (and the person) was. However, I am now convinced that the more simple and succinct the prayer, the greater the faith demonstrated by the pray-er.
If we truly believe that we are beloved children of God and that our Heavenly Father knows us (and our needs) intimately and deeply, then we will be free to pray very, very simply. The more we really believe (by faith) that we are children of the King, the less compelled we feel to beg for things He already knows we need. Prayer then moves from a theatrical performance to emotionally convince the Father to hear us, to simply recognizing and admitting what the Father already knows about us. So why find the most poetic way to ask your Father for daily bread, forgiveness or deliverance from the evil one? Just ask! Simply! He already knows!
Do you believe that?
The way you pray will prove whether you do or not.