Whatever's on your heart,
take it to God in prayer.
Have you ever looked at the stars on a clear night and thought of the vastness of space, and how insignificant we are? This can be an awakening to prayer, as it was for a writer in the Bible, who said in Psalm 8 (OT):
“When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
What is man that you are mindful of him…?”
When things go badly wrong for us, when we are in some kind of danger, or when we feel our own resources to be inadequate, we instinctively turn to God.
If you’ve ever said, while in difficulty, ‘Oh God!’, might that be, though somewhat short, a prayer?
I suggest that the reason people instinctively pray like this is that deep down we are seeking to fill the God-shaped hole inside ourselves. However, that hole is often plugged by our selfishness and ego, and we may only become aware of our need for God when our human resources seem most insufficient.
Similarly, it is probably true that most Christians are more deeply aware of God in times of difficulty than when all is going well. This is OK; after all, God says in Psalm 50, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honour me." But prayer should be more than just asking; it should also be for rejoicing, thanking, sharing and apologising.
I suspect we all pray—but what is it, and why do we do it?
To pray is to talk honestly to God—and we might as well be totally honest, since ‘There is not a word on my lips but you, O Lord, know it altogether’! If you want to see just how brutally honest prayer can be, look at the book of Job, or Psalms (both OT): “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?”—also later the words of Jesus on the cross.
We could say, cynically, that if God knows our needs, why pray? The answer may be that the point of prayer is that we need to admit our needs to, and our need of, God.
If prayer is talking to God then it is surely also listening to God. In quiet meditation and reflection we can have a sense of God’s presence, and of better direction in our lives.
When we reflect on apparently unanswered prayer, we can come to realise that perhaps God gives us what we need, not what we ask for; with hindsight, we often come to understand that the prayer apparently unanswered may, in the long term, lead to the best outcome.
Cardinal Basil Hume said that prayer is not something that one has to learn and then do, but rather something that one learns by doing. We can enter into relationship with God through Jesus, and it will grow as we develop the prayer we instinctively already pray.
Pray: Lord, I'm not sure how to pray, so let's just chat. This is the stuff I'd like to tell you...
Watch a video clip on prayer
Read the testimony of someone whose life changed when they began to pray
Watch the movie Bruce Almighty and watch out for the part about prayer
Watch the music video for Halleluia, based on Mary’s prayer when the angel appeared to her
Watch the music video of Mary Mary's In the Morning
Watch the music video of Solveig Henderson’s Heaven
Smile: Watch a spoof advert about prayer: Can You Hear me Now?
Smike: Watch a video clip about prayer
tell a friend about
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