Blossoming thistle flower as a major storm approaches Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Remember who you’re talking to

I don’t like reading instructions. I’m one of those silly people who prefer to jump into assembling things without the aid of an instruction manual. I prefer to guess, even if it voids the warranty and especially if there are parts leftover. I’d rather figure it out for myself than have someone tell me or than have to take the time to figure out which page has the English on it.

Did you know there are instructions to prayer? Jesus gave us a format that we should use when we pray, but not many people use it. As I blogged about yesterday, some folks traditionally like to recite the practice prayer. To me, that’s like reading an instruction manual out loud. I’m sure it’s beneficial, but it doesn’t accomplish what it was designed to accomplish until you use it.

Blossoming thistle flower as a major storm approaches Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Blossoming thistle flower as a major storm approaches Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Matthew 6:9.

Pray like this:
Our Father in heaven,
    may your name be kept holy.

This is the first line of the Lord’s Prayer. In other translations, you might remember it says something about “hallowed be thy name” but this means the same thing. There is so much going on in these first two lines, I almost split them up to talk about on separate mornings, but they are basically communicating the same concept: God deserves our worship.

That’s the first thing we need to remember when we pray. That’s the first step in the process. Worship. Praise. Telling God how awesome He is.


How many times do we just go to God with a request? With a demand? How many times do we open the line of communication between us just to ask for something and then shut it down?

Don’t get me wrong. God wants us to ask for things. He wants us to tell Him what we need, but that’s later on in the process. To start with, we need to get our perspective right. We need to remember who we’re talking to.

All too often, I think we get really comfortable with our relationship with God. And on one hand, that’s good. God wants a personal relationship with us. He wants us to call Him our Daddy. He wants to be the closest friend we have–but not at the expense of us forgetting Who He is. He is God. He is I Am. He created everything. He rules everything. And everything is about Him, whether we want to admit it or not. He is terrifying in strength, glorious in power, awesome in love, and furious in wrath. He is so far above us we couldn’t possible comprehend Him, so why do we expect that we can treat Him like a genie in a lamp? Where does that idea come from?

No. Before you ask for things, before you make your requests, before you delve into your list of demands, worship Him. Tell Him who He is to you. Thank Him for what He’s done in your life, in your heart, in our world. Remind yourself of how He’s changed you.

This is so important because by first acknowledging that He is God and you aren’t, it’s easier to remember that He knows what He’s doing. And it’s good to remember what He’s already done for you so you’ll remember that He’s never left you hanging.

So as you pray today, start off by telling God how great He is. Actually, even if you don’t get to your requests, just tell Him how great He is. Thank Him for specific things in your life. Thank Him for specific events in your life, good or bad. Thank Him for always being there.

Once you recognize everything He’s done, it’s hard to stop thanking Him. And once you’re done praying, don’t shut the line off. Don’t hang up the phone. Don’t forget He’s there. Worship Him all day. Keep an open line of communication going all day. When something goes wrong, praise Him. When something goes right, praise Him. Not only will it change your perspective, but it might change your circumstances too. Because Scripture proves that God loves to do things for grateful people who know Who He is.

Pretty yellow flower covered in rain drops at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Have a conversation with God

How do you pray? Do you repeat memorized text by rote or do you read prayers out of a book? Do you use flowery language when you pray or do you pray the way you normally talk? Do you pray in Jesus’ name? Do you end with a hearty “Amen”? Do you only pray at church or do you pray over your meals or in your morning devotionals or at some other specified time?

Prayer is one of those things that Christians talk about a lot, but I’m not sure if that many people do it. And I’m not sure any of us really take it as seriously as God intended.

Pretty yellow flower covered in rain drops at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Pretty yellow flower covered in rain drops at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Today’s passage is Matthew 6:5-13.

“When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! Pray like this:

Our Father in heaven,
    may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
    as it is in heaven.
Give us today the food we need,
    and forgive us our sins,
    as we have forgiven those who sin against us. 
And don’t let us yield to temptation,
     but rescue us from the evil one.

This passage comes out of one of Jesus’ most famous sermons, the Sermon on the Mount, which you can read for yourself in Matthew 5-7. The second part of this passage is more commonly known as the Lord’s Prayer, and I’ve been in churches where everyone stands and recites the Lord’s Prayer, although usually that tradition takes place in churches that use a different translation.

It’s not that reciting the Lord’s Prayer is wrong. It’s a great tradition. But it was never meant to be a prayer repeated. The Lord’s Prayer is a guide, a template for what our prayer should look like. So if you’ve ever wondered how you’re supposed to pray, Jesus already explained it.

The Lord has been teaching me a lot this year, especially about how to let go of things. If you read this blog regularly, you’ll know I’m a control freak, and worrying and anxiety tend to follow control freaks around. It’s so easy to worry about things you can’t control, which is ironic because worrying doesn’t give you any more control over a situation. It just lets you feel like you’re doing something about it, even if that’s only turning your hair gray.

I caught myself a few months ago when I was worrying about something. I thought to myself: “The only thing I can do is pray.”

Why do we wait to get to that point? The only thing I can do is pray? Guess what, folks? The best thing you can do is pray. I don’t know about any of you, but I have this weird issue where I’ll pray about something but I still try to take care of everything on my own. And don’t get me wrong. Sometimes that’s good. If you have the ability to change a situation and what you feel led to do agrees with Scripture, you should do it. But what about those times when you can’t do anything? What about those times when you can’t fix it? Why do pace the floor and fret before pray about it? Why do pray about it and then go back to pacing the floor?

Has anyone else been there?

This month, I want to study what prayer is because I want to remember why it’s important for me. And I want to get to the place where I stop worrying and fretting and pulling my hair out and putting my stomach in knots, even though I’ve already “given to God.” And the first fact about prayer that everybody needs to know is that it’s not some mystical, ethereal, fuzzy, emotional experience of faith. Prayer is talking to God.

If you want to recite verses, go for it. If you want to read out of a book, that’s fine. But how many friends do you have who you communicate with that way? My friend in England would worry about my sanity if all she received from me was a bunch of cute little rhyming stanzas. My paramedic friend would probably try to put me in her ambulance if the only words she got from me were written by someone else 100 years ago. Is that how you communicate with your friends?

No. Not if you want your friendship to last. If you’re talking to your friend, you just talk. You tell them what’s going on in your life. You tell them how you’re hurting. You tell them what you’re worried about. You tell them how they can help you. You tell them that you love them. You tell them that they’ve made a difference to you. You tell them they’ve made you a better person. You’re real with them. You don’t use language that’s not normal for you. You don’t use someone else’s words; you use your words. Otherwise, it’s not you.

So if you want to know what prayer is, it’s having a conversation with God. And if you’ve never done that, I recommend it. If you’re a follower of Christ, you have a unique opportunity to go into the presence of God and just talk to Him. Do we get that? Do we grasp how awesome that is? I cry just thinking about it.

So don’t throw away your liturgy or your cute little prayers about food or sleeping or whatever. Those are fine. Those are great traditions. But don’t let your traditions become more important than your relationship with God. If all you say to Him was written by someone else or is muddled by confusing language that you don’t even understand, you’ve missed the point. God already knows what you’re going to say, but the beauty about a friendship is that when you open your heart to someone who loves you unconditionally, you grow.

God already knows what you need. You aren’t going to surprise Him or shock Him or frighten Him. Just talk to Him. Talk to Him like He’s standing right next to you, and even though you aren’t going to tell Him anything He doesn’t already know, the act of your saying it out loud will change you.