By Pastor Mark Combs
Lord, you know what we need, even before we ask. But, since you have called us to pray, we pray you would hear the concerns of your people as they are now brought before you…
I know you have heard these words, at least once or twice. I know that I include this petition in the Prayers of the People every time I am leading worship. Somewhere along the way, I learned that it is important to be persistent in prayer, and I hope this is a way to continue to encourage us all to prayer. The Prayers of the People, after all, are the prayers of the entire gathered congregation, and there is no possible way that I (or whoever else is leading the prayers) can know all of what we need to share with God.
I know that many times we Lutherans want to make sure to not appear to be too full of ourselves, and we often hold inside the things that are working on us. A pastor that I used to know wrote a great piece about the how to pray, and I share it with you:
“How do I pray?” is a common question and one often linked with “And how will I know if God is listening?” Answers to these questions are so often clouded by the pressures of everyday life, friends, parents, and in general society. Within a congregation, praying is expected. It is at the heart and soul of the Christian. But just what is it? And how do we ‘do’ it?
Prayer has always been associated with kneeling and hands clasped. This is a good posture, but not the only one! Prayer posture depends upon many factors: physical conditions of person, place, situation, etc. But the most important factor of all is your relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. For it matters not what physical posture you take, if you have no connection with the Holy One himself. That seems too obvious, of course we ‘know’ our Lord. . . ! Well then, there is no need for the questions. for those who know the Lord know when and how to talk with him and also know his voice as he answers.
Conversation with the Holy, that is the basic definition of Prayer. A conversation implies relationship and two-way communication. Communication between a child and parent begins at birth, and while it is unsophisticated, the bonding begins almost immediately. So too in our relationship with God. We are born in him and the bonding is to begin immediately. At first it is simply the Holy Spirit within us continually linked to the ear of God, then, as we grow older in our faith, we learn how to speak with the Lord and hear his voice in return. As babies we are expected to communicate through grunts and coos, but as we grow older, it is expected that we will learn how to speak and listen. In our walk with God, no less is expected from us.
So, the answer to these questions is quite simple and to the point. “How do I pray?” Answer: In whatever manner respectfully best fits your need and situation. Malcolm Boyd put it this way, “Are you running with me Jesus?”
Therefore, whether kneeling, standing, sitting, walking, running, at work, at home, in the woods, driving in a car, it matters not. It does matter, however, that your faith trusts and knows that God is listening. You are his child! “How will I know that God is listening?” Answer: He has promised to be with you always, even to the end of the age. He knows, he listens, he cares, he tends to the children’s needs. We must understand that his answer is a part of our prayer, ‘Thy will be done!’ He always answers! It is just sometimes ‘No.’
Your faith will sense your Father’s will and his voice will be heard in that breath. God answer the prayers of the righteous. He will answer yours. There are people out there that we know about, who need for us to pray on their behalf. Take the time to be in conversation with the Holy Father and his Son Jesus wherever you are, but especially in church. God is listening, and will surely answer! James 5:16 says, “The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.” (NRSV)