Prayer is simple. And yet somehow, it is difficult.
At its base, prayer is simply talking to God, just as you would talk to any other person.
If that’s all prayer is, why is it so difficult sometimes then? I suppose it’s because we don’t get audible answers back. It would be so much easier if we could actually converse with God like Moses did.
But because we don’t, we often wonder, “Is God hearing me? Am I even doing this ‘prayer thing’ right?”
So instead of just talking, we often turn to formulas. We turn the Lord’s prayer found here in Matthew and in Luke 11 into our formula for prayer.
But prayer is not a mere formula nor was it ever meant to be. When we look at the Lord’s prayer, it gives us an idea of what prayer should look like, and what kinds of things we should be praying about. But it’s not meant to be prayed as a magic formula to get God to hear you.
Too often, though, people take the Lord’s prayer and turn it into a formula. They think that just because they say the words, God will hear them. After all, that’s what Jesus told us to pray, right?
But Jesus tells us here in verses 7-8,
And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
In other words, when you talk to God, talk normally. You don’t need special words. You don’t need to pray using long, flowery speech. None of these things impress God. All he wants to hear from you is your heart.
Sometimes people ask, “If God already knows what I need, if he already knows my thoughts, why pray?”
The best reason I can give is he wants to engage with you. Sure, he doesn’t have to hear our voice to know what we’re thinking. Sure, he could just give us our needs without our asking. But by praying, we engage with the living God. And that’s what he wants more than anything else.
But it’s impossible to engage with him, if we’re just mindlessly repeating words we’ve memorized. It’s impossible to engage with him if we’re busy trying to figure out the right formula to get him to answer our prayers.
He hears. More than that he will speak if we will just listen. So let’s stop the formulas and mindless prayers and simply engage with the living God by telling him our hearts and holding nothing back from him.
How about you? Are you truly engaging God in your prayers? Or are you just saying words?