< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: Prayer

Saturday, April 21, 2007


This is a talk I gave at a service at our church during a special “month of prayer” we had last year:

My husband and I have a Swedish friend who lives and works in France. Last December he was here for a week on business and one Saturday night we took him to a Christmas party with us. At the end of the evening I invited him to come to church the next morning and he said, “I may come, but if I do, don’t expect me to talk to God.”

His answer floored me and I didn’t know what to say. Later telling my daughter, who was home from school, about it, she of course had an immediate answer, “Mom, you should have told him that it’s not nice to come into someone’s house and not talk to them.”

This is God’s house and prayer is talking to God. It’s real contact with God. It’s precious, it’s powerful and it’s worth your effort. If you can talk to a friend you can talk to God. The more you pray, the easier and more natural it becomes.

When you love someone you want to spend time with him or her. In college I went to Iowa State University and my husband was in school in New York – we were about 900 miles apart. I told him the one thing I expected of him during the 4 years was getting rid of the 6 states between us….

They’re still there!

I used to say the one thing he and I learned for sure in college was to count backwards! We were always counting down the days until we got to see each other again.

In between visits we communicated as much as we could through letters and phone calls.

(And yes, kids, those were our only two choices: we didn’t have email, text messages or IM. Just letters and phone calls.) We didn’t even have cell phones – if John wasn’t in his room when I called or I wasn’t at my sorority house – we relied on someone writing down a message that we called. We also didn’t have unlimited minutes! (We DID have some very scary phone bills though! Talk about praying - I can remember sometimes praying as I was dialing that the line would be busy because I couldn’t afford another long distance call that week!)

We don’t need any of that when we communicate with God. He’s made it so easy on us! We can just talk! And we don’t even have to do it out loud! Really we don’t even need words! The Bible says the Spirit will intercede when all we can do is groan!

Well, if it’s that easy, why then when we go to Amazon.com, click on books and type in the word prayer, do we get 19,561 book titles about prayer?

A lot of these books are trying to answer important questions:

How can we develop a relationship with an invisible God?

How can we converse with God if we can’t audibly hear His voice?

Am I selfish when I ask for things I want?

Why should I ask for something if God already knows my needs in advance?

Some of the 19,561 books are just prayers that are already written. Some are commentaries on well-known prayers like The Lord’s Prayer or The Prayer of Jabez. I personally think the Prayer of Jabez was such a big seller because our “fast food society” is always looking for techniques to get God to give us the answer we want…but that’s another topic. Most of the books are just a lot of different people’s opinions. There’s really only one book we need for all of our examples and answers.

Look at the question about how to have a conversation with God when we can’t audibly hear His voice.

The Bible tells us that prayer is a two way street. We do have to listen to God too and there are lots of ways He speaks to us: through friends, in nature, in sermons or Sunday school lessons… but the biggest is through the Bible, which is the Word of God. But, do you know what else is the word of God? Christ. John 1:1 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” So we know we should read all those red words in the Bible to hear what Christ has to say to us! And we should listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit inside of us.

Jesus is also our answer to the question about how to have a relationship with an invisible God. Prayer is not just submitting a list of requests to God. It’s a means of pursuing a relationship with our heavenly Father. We were created to be in a relationship with our Creator and all parents know that the greatest thing you can do when raising a child is spend time with them. No relationship grows without an investment of time. Jesus showed us a perfect relationship with God. We just need to look in the Bible to learn more about that.

Two last thoughts-

First - Prayer is its own reward. The answers we get from God, whether yes, no or wait, are secondary to spending time with Him.

Second - It’s fine to recite prayers. There are some beautiful and powerful prayers and psalms out there written by Godly people. But, those shouldn’t be our only prayers. The author of a book called “Prayer for Beginners” likened it to a son giving his father a beautiful oil painting done by a professional artist. He had chosen it because it was wonderful and he knew his father would like and appreciate it and was worthy of the gift. And his father did like it. But, the dad was moved by the homemade drawings the son had made for him -because simple though they were they had come from his son’s heart. And that’s what God really wants from His children – He wants our hearts.

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