How should I pray?

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As the parent now of three year olds, we’re starting to get into some really fun theological training. For instance, we started to recognize that they were noticing Christmas lights as we were driving around town, and so we started to say that Christmas was about Baby Jesus, and that Baby Jesus came to tell us that God loves everybody. Which, as far as it goes, is about as profound theology as a person could possibly need, in spite of its simplicity.

We have also developed a little habit of offering our prayers before bed. As we get ready, we just ask the boys who we should pray for. Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, Aunts and Uncles, and the healthy dose of babysitters in their lives usually get lifted up. Really it might just be a roll call of everyone they care about in life, but when brought before God I think it’s about as beautiful a prayer as can be offered up.

I don’t know why it is so many of us have such a hard time with anxiety around prayer. Am I praying the right way? What if I say the wrong thing? What if I forget to pray for someone or something important? A lot of folks seem to bring a lot of stress in to their prayer life. I don’t think this is what Jesus wants of us, to be so worried about what we’re going to say that we won’t say anything at all.

I think there’s another metaphor with our children that might make sense of this for us. My boys are at the age where they are less and less interested in just sitting on the couch and snuggling with dad. Those used to be my favorite times, just sitting on the couch reading their children’s books, or even better watching them fall asleep in my arms. They still sit with me from time to time, but their focus is all over the place.

Now imagine that I as a father set forth a “correct way” to spend time with me. They must be wearing a certain set of clothes. They must put their entire focus on me. They must say the right words, and praise me their father in the right way. One of two things would happen: they’d either somehow learn to follow all the rules, or more likely they’d just end up not spending time with me at all. As a father, I can imagine no worse fate. I don’t want them to spend time with me in some kind of unspoken “correct way,” I just want them to spend time with me.

This, I feel is how God is with prayer.

I don’t think God wants us to stress over how we speak with God, worrying about what we say or how we’ll sound or what we may or may not forget. I think God just wants us to spend time in the Divine Presence. I think like a Father just wants to spend time hanging out with his kids, God just wants to hang out with us.

So here’s my encouragement for you in your rule of life, whether it’s bedtime or not, make time in your schedule to just be with God. Don’t worry about what you’ll say. Don’t worry about what you’re wearing. Don’t worry about who’s watching. Don’t worry. Just be with God. Carve out a quiet corner in your day (I know they’re hard to find, but they exist I promise) and be still.

You’ll be grateful for time spent together, of this I’m sure!

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