25 May 2009

How NOT to pray

The point I want to quickly make has to do with repeating God's name too often when we pray. We all know that when giving a speech or speaking to a crowd, saying things like, "um" or "uh" often can be crazy annoying and can distract the listener from points the speaker is trying to make. We all know and have been taught not to use these "filler words".

Now, I'm gonna probably hurt some feelings so be prepared. In NO way is this a stab at anyone or any style of prayer. It's just my way of giving my $.02 about how a lot of us pray.

Let's start with an example. Prayer is no different from having a conversation with a best friend. The only thing that's unique is that you're talking to your all powerful creator (which is honestly quite humbling and sometimes overwhelming). Anyway, here's my example. Let's pretend I'm praying to you and you are God. Ok, now that you're God, let's give you a name. Names are important so let's make a good one. I say your name should be Kevin Christopher Burton. Beautiful!! Ok, now we need a setting. Let's pretend I'm taking some quiet time in the living room and talking to you about what's on my heart and mind. Remember, you have all the characteristics that God has and I can't see you. Now, I'm gonna start praying and I just want you to "listen" and observe how I'm talking to you.

"Dear Kevin Christopher Burton, you are such an awesome Kevin. Kevin, I just want to come to you today and poor out my heart to you Kevin. I'm praying because I have so many needs and problems that I want to talk to you about Father Kevin. And, Father Kevin, today was such a horrible day Father. That lady in that pearl white 2007 Toyota Camry with 20" chrome wheels, sunroof and tan leather interior just cut me off and I couldn't help but give her the bird, Holy Kevin! Father, please forgive me for doing that. I don't know what I was thinking Father Kevin, but I was ticked. You saw what she did Father Kevin and how she almost ran me off the road, Lord. But, I just want to thank you for keeping me from doing anything worse than that, Lord Kevin. And Kevin, you saw how she acted like it wasn't even her fault. That just made me want to run her off the road! And, Dear Kevin, I know I could have really let her have it, but I refrained and just happened to let it go this time. Father Kevin, it must have been your hands holding me back today, Lord. Lord Kevin, help me do better next time. Please forgive me Father Kevin. I know I have a lot of problems that need to be fixed, Holy Kevin, and this is just one of them. Thank you for loving me and forgiving me of all the stupid stuff that I do every day Father Kevin. In your son's precious and holy name, Amen."

Ok, is that not the most annoying prayer you've ever heard?! I hope you were able to see where I was going. If you couldn't, just replace the name 'Kevin' with 'God' and reread it.

Let me give one more example to really let it sink in on what's happening here. Ok, now let's pretend I'm talking to you and you're my best buddy (we're both human). Your name is Michael Jeffrey Craymer. Remember, prayer is just as easy as talking to your best friend about what you're thinking and what's on your heart. Ok, here's the setting. Let's pretend I run into you while coming out of the gym and we're somewhere in the parking lot. I haven't seen you in a minute. Let's see what happens:

"Hey Michael Jeffrey Craymer!! [A collection of high fives and fist pounds are being shared at this point] What's goin on good buddy?! Michael, so how you been lately, buddy? That's great to hear Michael. Hey Michael, my good friend, let me tell you what happened to me today, Michael. So, I went to the grocery store today, Michael, to pick up some skim milk and do you know who I saw there good buddy?! You wouldn't believe it. I saw Melody Cagle!! Can you believe it Michael??! And, good friend Michael, you wouldn't believe she's finally back in town from that, um, Mo--, uh, Mul---. You know Michael Craymer. That Muldova place! Good buddy Michael, I couldn't believe my eyes! Dear Michael, no one's seen that girl for like 10 months or something so that's a pretty big deal right Michael?! Man Michael, it's so good to see you. My dear friend, I hope I get to see you again soon, Michael. Call me sometime buddy. I gotta run! I hope you have a good day, Michael! And, good friend, tell your daughter Abi I said 'Hi'! See you later!"

Now, at this point, if you were Michael, you would dumb founded. You probably wouldn't hear a word I said. And, not to mention, you'd probably want me to shut up!

I hope by these examples you're starting to catch on to what I'm saying. If someone came up to you and started repeating your name, nickname or the status of your relationship during normal conversation, it would get very annoying very quickly. Honestly, we mean no harm to God when we repeat "filler words" to Him in prayer. He's patient with us. However, we should also be aware of how we're praying and what exactly we're saying. This is especially important when we're praying publicly or leading a group. After all, God never talks like this to us so we should follow His example.

Finally, I want to give one last example of how to say a small simple prayer. Prayer was never meant to be hard. Just say what you're thinking and what's on your heart. For example:

"Dear Father, I love you. Thank you so much for all that you've done for me today. Thank you for always looking out for me and loving me no matter how stupid I am. You know, I had a hard time today. This person cut me off and I didn't react too well. Please forgive me for not acting the way I should have and help me to do better next time. If there's anything else that I need to ask forgiveness for, please let me know. You are definitely my favorite and there's nothing I want more than you. Help me be the best I can for the rest of the day. Show me what you want me to do and where you want me to go. I love you so much! In Jesus' name, Amen."

Basically, when you pray, just pray with a sincere heart and really think about what you're saying. Are you being repetitious by calling God's name too many times because it makes your prayers sound better? You shouldn't. You don't do it when you talk to your friends and God is your very best friend.

If you feel it will be odd when it's quiet and you're trying to think about what to say next, then that's fine. Just shut your mouth and let God fill the words in your heart. They'll come eventually. It will feel weird at first, but you'll get used to using your words wisely. The less words you can say to get your point across, the better.

If you're praying publicly, the "filler words" can be really distracting to the person who's trying to pray and agree with you. The more you pray at home and in your quiet time, the better your public prayers.

Lastly, I'm not considering myself to be a prayer expert in any way. I mean, I have a long way to go too!


Abi said...

Glad to see you are up and running :)
I can see how the repetitious filler words can get annoying. I often find myself saying them when I pray. But, sometimes saying his name over and over is about the only prayer I can manage. I'm sure that's when the Holy Spirit is working overtime to translate.
Good stuff D!

Toni Baggiano said...

As a communications person, I totally agree with what you are saying, especially in regard to public prayer. I think with private prayer though, a lot of people are repititious because it helps or reminds them personally with whom they are focusing upon. It is definitely not my way of praying but for some it helps them focus on God more. Just saying His name for them is part of the focus. And yet, for me, it distracts. I had an older professor in seminary who ALWAYS began and ended with praying in God's name and he thought it vital that all pray that way. Was he right? I don't know...I am no expert. For him though, he felt led to pray that way. That is the cool thing about God...he doesn't care how we pray, He just wants us to talk to Him. And like Abi said, with a sincere heart. People are often paranoid about public prayer...they want to do it just the RIGHT way (if there is a right way), and I don't want to justify the thought that there is only one right way. IT ALWAYS SHOULD GO BACK TO SCRIPTURE...how does Scripture tell us to communicate with God? WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT PRAYER?! It says plenty...

Thanks for sharing your insightful thoughts. I enjoyed! And remember, the communications major in me TOTALLY AGREES but the Christian in me doesn't want to say that there is a way to improve our prayer life publicly. Like the Pharisee praying in public for all to see, it is more about the motivation and heart behind the prayer then the actual words.

Melinda Lanier said...

you started your blog! YAY, I haven't read this yet, but I will....SOON!

Melinda Lanier said...

--putting in blue hearing aids---okay so I think what what you are saying is that we should treat God like our friend and talk to him in that way.

--now I'm gonna speak in pink---
I also think that there is power in the Name of Jesus. Sometimes I pray by just saying Jesus' name. And maybe that's just a different category all together. My grandparents went through a study on prayer and she was sharing about it and she was talking to me about how when I run and hear from God and enjoy the nature how that was a type of prayer. I had never really thought of it that way.

Another thing--while the overuse of God's name may be distracting and is sometimes for me--I think that God likes it when we call him Father, Savior, Redeemer...I think that just as our friends love it when we actually use their name--God like it when we call Him by His names, but not using the names for "filler" as you would say....

--As usualy we probably agree, we just speak in different languages--pink and blue ;)

Toni Baggiano said...

I really enjoyed Melinda's comments!! Pink and blue...never thought of it that way but so true.