A friend of mine recently posted a question on FB hoping to discover some information about musicians.
“What’s frustrating about guitar playing these days?”
“What is holding you back?” (various answers)
After a concert many years ago, I walked onto the stage to ask the band a few questions. Ya, I’m that guy who randomly walks onto stages post concerts. Asked the guitarist, “How’d you learn? School? Which one?”
Get this – he was embarrassed that he had a degree in music. Why? Because so many of his colleagues are self-taught.
Some people complain about our younger generation? I don’t see it. They are smart, disciplined in areas of learning and figuring out so many things. I, as do you, know people who are so passionate about learning something new, and it feels like in a about two weeks, they can become an expert in something. Amazing.
Why do people spend hours and hours on youtube and google? They want to figure out new things. How to…golf, build things, cook, program their computer, fix some broken item in their home, play music, etc.
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Two weeks ago we came across this line in Luke 11, “Lord, teach us how to pray.”
They had no google search. No Youtube. Just a simple question to the one who caught their attention, Jesus, “Can you teach us how to pray?”
What is prayer? (conversation/time with God)
Why do we pray? (develops our faith, heart, and life)
3 things from our first talk:
- It’s Human to pray
- It’s Biblical to pray
- Praying happens everywhere & somewhere
Wonderful. But there are some obstacles to praying. Aren’t they. One you may hear about a lot? It’s hard to pray.
Today we’ll talk about 3 things to help us overcome this obstacle…
But first: Matthew 6 (1st – MSG & 2nd – NIV)
5 “And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat?
6 “Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.
7-13 “The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply.
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5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
One phrase rings through this text…
“When you pray”
I love the assumption Jesus makes…that we will pray, that we need to pray, that we must pray, that prayer is essential. But he doesn’t leave us hanging, he gives us some valuable instruction.
When you pray…don’t be fake…if so your only reward will be that you’ll be seen by others.
When you pray…go to a place of solitude…if so, you won’t be seen by others, but you’ll be seen by God.
When you pray…don’t babble…because many words aren’t important…words or no words, God knows what you need before you even say a word.
Knowing that we will deal with these issues in prayer, like not doing it for the right reasons, like trying to hard to make our prayers perfect, worrying what we sound like, and the most important one, it’s hard to pray – here are few things to keep in mind to help us figure out how to pray.
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(These points titles were inspired by and borrowed from Pete Grieg)
Keep it Simple
The words we read in Matthew 6 are followed by the Lord’s Prayer. This prayer was just 31 words long (original language). Originally, it rhymed. Jesus offers us a simple poem that rhymes. It fits in a tweet folks.
Anglican Bishop, Justin Welby, said that the Lord’s Prayer is, ‘simple enough to be memorized by small children and yet profound enough to sustain a whole life time or prayer.’
A new Christian once asked, ‘is it ok if I talk to God in the shower?’ YES. Better than talking to yourself I guess 😉
I’ve been driving with people and and talking about perhaps some difficulty they’re going through, and offered to pray, and they might joke, ‘don’t close your eyes’. For some reason we think our eyes have to be closed.
There are very few rules – the shower, driving, running, quiet moments in solitude, write them down, sing them, rap them, pray in your head, etc.
Hebrews 10:9 says that God’s presence is available to us all at any time, in any place, through Jesus.
God only invites us to pray simply, directly, and truthfully.
In the words of Avril Levin, why we have to make things more complicated?
Keep in Real
In Luke 18 Jesus tells a story about people arriving at the temple to pray. One, a Pharisee, stood and spoke eloquently, ticking all the right religious boxes, but the other man, a tax collector, humbled, wouldn’t even look up, muttering, “God have mercy on me, a sinner.” Jesus says, which man went home justified? The humble, real, authentic, tax collector.
Thomas Merton says, “God is far too real to be met anywhere other than reality.”
Some of you may remember, a few years ago, we borrowed Anne Lamott’s book title for a series on prayer. So refreshing – simply, “Help, Thanks, Wow”. She argues that these are the only words we will ever need.
“My belief is that when you’re telling the truth, you’re close to God. If you say, ‘I’m exhausted and depressed beyond words, and I don’t like you at all right now, and I recoil from most people who believe in you,’ that might be the most honest thing you’ve ever said. Or if you said, it’s all hopeless, and I don’t have a clue if you exist, but I could use a hand,’ it would almost bring tears to my eyes, tears of pride, for the courage it took to get real – really real.”
Let me tell you…my prayers have been very REAL the last few months. Janet asked me one night in the hospital, “I never see you crying?”. What she didn’t see was me walking the halls, walking back and forth to the car, driving the 401, crying, praying, saying all sorts of stuff to God. I gave it pretty hard to God in those moments.
Jesus was real with God before the cross. Sure, he said, Let your will be done, but before that he said, take this cup from me.
In my prayers, I might eventually get to ‘Let your will be done’ too. But God probably hears a lot more than that before we get there.
Psalm 55:17 seems appropriate here, “Evening and morning and at noon, I will complain and murmur, and He will hear my voice.”
Jacob literally wrestles with God. (Gen 32)
Moses complains about the people God called him to lead. (Numbers 11:11-12)
I love that these things, and so much more, are found in the scriptures. No hiding people’s honest prayers to God.
C.S. Lewis wrote, “What seem our worst prayers may really be, in God’s eyes, our best. Those, I mean, which are least supported by devotional feeling…These, perhaps…come from a deeper level than feeling…God sometimes seems to speak to us most intimately when he catches us, as it were, off our guard.” (Letters to Malcom)
Keep it Up
Jesus told his disciples that they should always pray and never give up. (Luke 18:1)
Paul told the Ephesians to “Keep on praying” (6:18)
Prayer isn’t about trial and error and finding the right formula, it’s about not giving up.
Daily prayer means…well…daily prayer.
“You cannot grow in prayer without some measure of effort and discomfort and self-discipline.”
Someone once compared praying to throwing rocks in a swamp. Each rock sinks without a trace. The exercise seems pointless. But keep going long enough, keep throwing those rocks, and the swamp will eventually be filled. One day, a rock will be thrown that will not sink. Solid ground will begin to appear.
Build the rhythm and routine of prayer in your life. It’s the only way for your relationship with God to, not just survive, but thrive.
I was encouraged and challenged, a few months back, to hug my wife every day for 15 second. It’s been amazing. The routine, the rhythm, the consistency, it all adds up to a better, loving, appreciative relationship. It’s the same with ongoing prayer.
Keep it Simple
Keep it Real
Keep it Up
In other words, our basic building blocks in our approach to prayer must be…