Prayer is a Conversation, Not a Speech
|by Emma P, 8th Grade|
As a wise person once said; “When you pray, move your feet.” This is an old African proverb that many treasure. This proverb explains that we can’t just pray for something and expect God to do it all for us, we have to help if we are able. For example, if you see someone who is starving on the streets, you can’t just look at them and think, “Oh, that’s too bad for them, God, please help them.” Of course, that is a fine thing to do, but if you have some food that you have no need for, you should give it to them. The Bible states in Matthew 25: 45; “He will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”
The Lord’s Prayer is a lighter to ignite all of your other prayers. There are six simple words that are key in the understanding of this prodigious prayer; worship, surrender, petition, confession, warfare, and thanksgiving. These principles are something that should be taken to heart, as these are what we usually include in our prayers. Most stick to one in particular, the most common being petition. The type that I most often stick to is thanksgiving. There is something about prayer that makes me think of only thanking and praising God, and rarely asking for anything. As we studied this topic, I came to realize more and more that I wasn’t putting everything I could into my prayers, they all sounded the same. As I mentioned earlier, the Lord’s Prayer being a lighter is a bit of a confusing concept, yet is actually quite simple. This prayer was taught to the disciples in Matthew chapter 6, verses 9 – 13, when they asked Jesus how to pray. Therefore, it was a perfect prayer, and had the ideal balance of the six principles that describe it. These principles, when combined in a prayer, can make it extraordinarily powerful and memorable. “So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding.” We as Christians would do well to memorize this verse, found in 1st Corinthians 14: 15, as it teaches not to just say whatever comes to mind to just get it over with, but to think and to make the prayer meaningful. As a Buddhist monk once said, “We should only speak if we are improving the silence.”
There are four stages of praying that are imperative to a phenomenal prayer. The first stage says that I talk, you listen. This stage is quite straight-forward, saying that I talk to God and he listens to me. The second states that you talk and I listen. Again, this has a pretty clear message, saying that God is talking to me, and I am listening. The third is about neither of us talking and both of us listening. This quote found in the Alchemist sums this stage up nicely; “The Secret of Happiness lies in looking at all the wonders of the world and never forgetting the two drops of oil in the spoon.” This means to be aware of what’s happening around you, but to always zoom in on what’s important. The fourth and final stage is that neither talks nor listen. This is the mindset that many adopt while meditating, basically just being focused on your inner being and getting lost in the moment. This can be interpreted differently depending on your religion, your personality, and many other factors. Many are stuck between stages one and two, which is merely habit for some, but something entirely different for others. I personally have gotten to stage four, which is to just get lost in the moment. This is a natural occurrence to me, because I am quiet and calm by nature, and I like to think that I treasure every moment. You never know when something might go away, so you should enjoy it while it’s there.
Prayer and being close to God can look different in numerous religions. Many religions develop their own style of praying, such as many Hindus meditate to get closer to God. These are unequivocally diverse, but they all have a similar root. For example, Muslims always pray in the direction of the Kaaba in Saudi Arabia while bending down to show their submission to God. Buddhists meditate to be more familiar with their inner beings. Christians fold their hands, close their eyes, and bow their heads to pray. All of these types of ‘prayer’ have a common denominator, which is awareness. This is something that is highly valued in many religions. Although, I feel that these are all blanket statements of a sort, because not everyone prays the same. I prefer sitting in nature and just being calm over folding my hands and doing all of the stereotypical ‘Christian’ paraphernalia, and this might be similar to many people of all kinds of religions, whether they believe in a God or not.
Anthony De Mello, a writer who is famous for his profound writings and unfathomable knowledge, wrote many stories about prayer. There is one in particular that I like, which is one about a shoemaker. This shoemaker worked hard day and night, and found he never had time for his prayers. He went to go see a Rabbi to ask him how to fit in his prayer. The shoemaker said that while he was working, his heart would let out a sigh, a sign of longing to be close to God and to talk to him. The Rabbi said that a sigh is valued much more than a prayer, because many pray just to get it over with, but this shoemaker had an honest desire to talk to God. This story showed me that you don’t always have to be in a certain position to pray, you don’t always have to even talk to pray. It’s sometimes hard for us Christians to understand this concept, because prayer has become more and more of a burden and less of a relationship and a closeness that God and humans alike crave.
Prayer is particularly challenging to comprehend, so we have to examine all of the bits and pieces it’s made up of. Prayer is a sacred bond between man and God, and it should be respected ad infinitum, though sadly, it has become more of a habit than anything else. As I elucidated throughout, prayer is a type of awareness. It’s also a time to be honest with God. He doesn’t always want to be thanked, he wants you to approach him with your questions and give over your weaknesses. He wants to be more than a friend, more than a brother with you. Doesn’t this make you feel special? God has chosen you to love, you to nurture and you to cherish. He wants you to come to him as you are, not as someone you are pretending to be! I see prayer in a whole new light now, and I long to be closer to God, as the mystery of his great power is what keeps us wondering and yearning to be close with him.