Most of us have been taught the concept of prayer since we were very young, whether we practiced it or not. Really, the act is quite simple, if performed properly, it is a simple matter of carrying on a conversation with God. On the surface it sounds non-threatening and something that everyone can do. However, prayer is something that can strike fear in the hearts of the biggest and toughest men.
Some memorize prayers like “The Lord’s Prayer” or “Good Bread Good Meat, Good Lord Let’s Eat” or even “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep” (which isn’t performed publicly very often, I hope).
In some churches, prayer takes on different meanings for some as it seems to be used for gossip — just saying it seems that way. For example, little Miss Matilda who sat in the third pew of the left side of the church house during every service, even weddings and funerals for the past 30 years, raises her hand during prayer requests and asks for prayer for Jack and Jill Anonymous down the street who have loud sounds coming from their house that sound like arguing and “we should just remember them in prayer lest they should find themselves in a messy divorce, which would be a shame because they have a huge mortgage, four kids, three dogs and a gerbil who need them so.”
We also get caught up on the health issues of the neighborhood quite often during prayer requests. Oh, issues like, “Let’s remember Billy Bob Cant-help-it who is suffering so from yet another attack of the colitis.” Or “I think we need a special prayer for Penny Sue Pregnasius who is expecting her third set of twins, and there may be trouble there because of the hours her husband stays away from home (probably working to support all those kids — just sayin’).
Yes, down through the years we have been able to take something that the Lord had meant to keep sacred, a direct line of communication and fellowship between Himself and His children, and turn it into something different. Sometimes something humorous, but I am almost certain something that was not intended to be. However, our all-knowing creator knew we would do this, and loves us anyway.
I do thank the Lord for His forgiveness as we sometimes lie about prayer. For instance, “Billy Bob, you tell your mother that I will be in prayer for her arthritis to get better!” Or, “You know I am in continual prayer for your ministry, pastor,” knowing all along in each instance that you’re not going to pray for either. Not always out of a mean-spirited act, but because prayer is more often something we talk about doing but spend so little time doing it. Perhaps this is why it is so important that we attend church because “prayer” really happens there. We seem to forget how to, or the need for prayer when we walk out the church door.
Many of us have preconceived notions about what prayer should be about. I recall someone close to me asking me to remember their dogs in prayer. Even though I said I would (see, I lied) I didn’t think that animals warranted prayer until I came face to face with the realization that God is in control of everything. Everything! The scriptures say He “cares for the sparrow” and provides for them. Why not pray for someone’s dog then?
Yes, prayer is something so simple, yet, so misunderstood. The very thought of prayer baffles some, as they don’t know what to say or how to say it, which unfortunately is something we don’t always admit, and don’t ask questions about.
I have seen prayer strike fear in the hearts of big men. Seriously. I have seen the preacher at many churches call on Brother Weak-in-the-knees to close the service in prayer, and suddenly the brother who otherwise was quite eloquent in speech could not put two words together that fit, and sometimes would end his incoherent prayer with sobbing, and not the spiritual kind.
I have heard of people being called upon without warning to pray aloud during a public church service and while silence fell on the congregation awaiting words of a divine appeal to be broken by the unexplainable sound of water running.
Most of what I have said about this is in jest. However, there is nothing more powerful or anymore beautiful than prayer. It is a gift from our maker that opens the lines for us to commune as often as we desire with Him, and is the power source for all our lives if we will just use it. Again, just-sayin’.
Herb Day is a longtime local radio personality and singer-musician. You can email him at [email protected] and follow his work at www.HerbDayVoices.com.