Do you ever talk to your best friend?
Of course you do.
If you have a friend who is special then usually you talk to that friend as often as you can.
So, now, let me ask you something else. Is it hard to talk to your friend? Is it difficult to think of something to say to your friend?
Of course not.
It’s not hard at all to talk to your friend.
You talk, and your friend listens to what you have to say.
Your friend talks, and you listen to what your friend has to say to you.
That’s what friends do.
- Friends spend time with each other.
- Friends like being with each other.
- Friends talk to each other.
- Friends listen to each other.
Did you know that prayer is like that?
Or it should be like that.
In its most simple form, praying is just you and God–you and Jesus–talking to each other. And listening.
Does that sound too simple or too easy. Maybe it doesn’t sound religious enough to you.
Aren’t there some rules you are supposed to follow when you pray?
Aren’t there some special words your are supposed to use when you pray? Fine, majestic, great sounding words?
Oh, I know, some religions and some religious people have made up all kinds of rules about praying.
Some of them have rules about where you can pray—and where you’re not allowed to pray (according to their rules).
Some of them say you have to pray a certain number of times a week, or even a certain number of times a day.
Some of them tell you the words you can use when you pray—and some of them will tell you the words you are not allowed to use when you pray. Some of them say that if you use one of those wrong words—even by accident—it makes your prayer no good and you must start over again.
Some of them say you must memorize certain prayers that someone else wrote down and recite them—(say those words over exactly as they were written)—at special times, or on special days, or even a certain number of times every day.
Maybe for some people, following those rules helps them to feel that they are praying.
But you know, Jesus doesn’t say to do any of those things.
As a matter of fact in the days when Jesus was walking and talking and teaching here on our earth, there were religious leaders who had long lists of rules about praying.
Those religious leaders had special prayers for everything that happened in life. Those prayers were all written down, and all they had to do was pick the right one for the right happening. They had special times to pray. And mostly their prayers were long and filled with big and great sounding words. There were words and phrases they repeated over and over again. Many times they would do this praying in a public place where others could see and hear them pray. If they prayed well, and sounded good when they prayed, then they thought that other people would notice what they were doing and would be impressed. Those religious leaders were proud of being able to pray well and say the right things.
Do you know what Jesus thought about this? Listen:
- “Take care! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired, for then you will lose the reward from your father in heaven. … When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who pretend piety by praying publicly on street corners … where everyone can see them. Truly that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, all alone, and shut the door behind you and pray to your Father (God) secretly, and your Father, who knows your secrets, will reward you.”
[Matt 6:1, 5]
Jesus was saying that you are not to pray to try to impress other people who might hear you pray.
As I understand it, Jesus was saying that praying is a private conversation between you and God.
If you are in a crowded place—if there are all kinds of people around you, and everyone is talking—and you find it difficult (hard) to pray there because of the noise, then find some place where you can be alone and be quiet, so that you can talk to God. That might be in a room by yourself, with the door shut—as in the example that Jesus gave. Or it might be while you are walking by yourself on a quiet road somewhere.
How should you pray?
Should you repeat words that someone else has written down to be a prayer?
This is what Jesus had to say about that:
- “Don’t recite the same prayer over and over as the heathen do, who think prayers are answered only by repeating them again and again. Remember your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him.” [Matt. 6:7-8]
When you talk to your special friend, you don’t just repeat the same words over and over, do you? Of course not.
Then why keep repeating the same words over and over when you talk to God? No, there is no need to do that when you talk to God—when you pray.
Your friend is interested in what is happening to you every day. So is God. He likes to hear you tell him about your life. He likes to hear you tell him what makes you happy. He wants to hear you tell him what is bothering you—what is worrying you.
Yes, he already knows all those things about you, but He wants you to tell Him anyway.
When you talk to your special friend, I’m sure you don’t use big long sentences with great sounding words as though you were making an impressive speech. No. You use everyday words that say exactly what you mean and exactly what you feel.
That is the kind of language to use when you talk to God. Tell Him exactly what you feel, and think, and wonder about. And tell Him in words that say exactly what you mean—words that you understand when you say them.
When you talk to your friend, you don’t have to say your words in a loud voice, do you? (Unless, of course, your friend is deaf and cannot hear very well.) No. You talk to your friend in an ordinary tone of voice. You might even whisper to your friend. When you talk to God—when you pray—you can also talk with an ordinary, conversational voice. You can whisper. Or if you wish, you can speak with no sound at all–just say the words in your mind, and in your heart. God will hear what you say. God can hear your thoughts.
You don’t have to wait until a special time to pray.
Has something especially nice happened to you. Just say, “Thank you, Lord.”
Do you have something to do that find very hard? Ask God for help right then—right while you are working on that project.
Have you done something that you know is wrong? Don’t wait until night to make it right with God. Talk him right then. Tell him right away, “Lord, I’m sorry. I’ve done the wrong thing. I’ve failed you. Please forgive me. Please help me to learn from my mistake. Please help me not to do this again.”
Praying doesn’t have to be a hard thing to do.
Praying doesn’t have to be done with a lot of words–great words.
And by the way—when you pray, don’t do all the talking. Stay quiet every once in awhile. Sometimes, God might have something to say to you. No, you won’t hear his voice. But he may put some thoughts into your heart or mind at a time like that–thoughts that you know could only have come from him. Or he might have something special to say to you through something you read in your Bible.
Take time to listen.
Praying is a conversation between friends—a conversation between you and God.
If God is your friend–if Jesus is your friend—don’t wait too long to talk to him.