Have you ever visited different types of churches and listened to how they pray? Growing up, I had the privilege of visiting several churches. They were all different. And the people in them prayed with different styles.
In some churches, the minister sounds like he (or she) would rather be chanting Latin. They pray in a sing-song kind of voice. And sound like they have an allergy to finishing sentences. Oh great and mighty Father, before whom all things on heaven and on earth must give glory, and through whom all things that have been made were made, we who are but mere mortals who are so unworthy to be called your children ask that you would grant, out of your plentiful bounty and overflowing generosity, so wonderfully demonstrated in your lavish grace poured out over us…." You get the idea.
In other churches, they pray with raised hands and great enthusiasm. Often they will have a great fondness for rebuking things and binding them in the name of Jesus. Bouncing on the balls of their toes, bursting with energy, they pray: Heavenly Father, we pray this prayer in the power of the Holy Spirit, by the authority of the written Word of God, and the victory of Jesus Christ’s shed blood. In the name of Jesus Christ the anointed one and by His blood, we bind, rebuke and bring to no effect: All division, discord and disunity; and all false teaching, false gifts, manifestations, and lying signs and wonders.1 But, when someone prays for you like this, you know you’ve been prayed for.
Most of my life, I’ve attended white, conservative Protestant churches. And there, the prayer I’m most familiar with sounds like a police officer reading a press statement. Yet the press statement is bizarrely formatted as a letter. And for some reason, every second prayer starts with thanks the lack of laws against public gatherings. Dear Heavenly Father, thank you that we are able to gather here today without persecution. We ask that you would bless each one of us as we listen to your word…. And in these churches, there’s often an unwritten rule. You get bonus points for working in bible quotes, so watch out for them too.
Please do not misunderstand me. I do not intend to mock anyone. I’ve met sincere, godly people in all kinds of churches. But I do want you to take notice when you do hear people pray. And sometimes, if you are very fortunate, you might hear another style of prayer.
Sometimes… Sometimes a person will pray and their prayer is different. It sounds like eavesdropping on a private conversation. It is intimate. Without pretence. The person praying is not trying to impress anyone. Yet they talk to God as if he were an old friend.
It is to this kind of prayer that I aspire.
You might be thinking that the next thing I’m going to write will be: And this type of prayer is the result of many long years of practising private prayer. And most often found in older Christians. I thought I was going to write that too until I reflected on it. I realised that in my experience it isn’t true. When I’ve heard this kind of prayer it’s been from young people and new Christians and tradesmen. People less burdened by tertiary educations. Without years of listening to other people’s prayers.
Now, I’m not saying this particular style of prayer is better than others. But I find it helpful. It reminds me of something import about what Christians believe. Something that goes to the heart of what Christianity is about.
It reminds me that Christianity is all about humility. It’s all about Jesus. About the God-man who suffered and died as one of us. It’s not for the good people, but the people who know they’re not good. “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do need one. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”2
So when I hear someone praying to God like a person, without performing, it stirs something in me. Something that makes me want to know this humble God better. So I hope (and pray) that you get to hear someone pray like that too.
This is an excerpt from a longer prayer I found at http://www.praise-and-worship.com/worship-prayercover.html ↩︎