A Revelation on Prayer

"The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace."

A lot of us will be asked to pray at some point today, out loud, in front of our families. Prayers of thanksgiving, prayers of blessing over our food and family members.

For some of us, this won’t be different from any other day. We pray for our food right before we eat every day, whether it’s a solitary bowl of cereal or a tableful of feast fixin’s.

I think we’ve all heard variations of the same prayer, delivered in a monotone, that varies only slightly if ever each time we pray it: “Father, bless this meal and the hands that prepared it, and use it as strength and nourishment unto our bodies. In your name, amen.”

There’s nothing wrong with the words, of course. Those are lovely words, and I’m sure that the first person to pray those words was praying them out of the abundance of his heart, in a moment of holy abandon and inspiration.

But I’ve watched, at least for my family and myself, that the ritual of praying aloud over our food has become void of heart. It’s just something we do because we feel like we should, it seems. And maybe it’s not the same for you and your families–if so, ignore this, and tell me your guys’s secret, ’cause I wanna know.

The reason this came to my attention in the first place is because as I was reading in Matthew 6, a verse I had already highlighted jumped out at me and whacked me hard for the first time.

Matthew 6:6 (The Message)
“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.”

I love the chunk in the middle of that verse. “…so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage.”

As I examine my own prayers that I’ve made for or in front of people, I’ve realized that I am guilty of “role-playing.” Whenever my family asks me to pray, I immediately get uncomfortable. Why? A couple of reasons.

First of all, because it’s a ritual, and I’ve seen this ritual done hundreds of times by the heads of whichever household, delivered beautifully-poetically, even, as if they had rehearsed it. What if I say the same things, but don’t measure up? And just like that, my eyes are on me and not God. It went from prayer to performance.

Secondly, I’m uncomfortable because I know that when I’m alone, in my secret place, I have a beautiful, private way of telling my Daddy thank you for everything He’s done for me. It’s not always poetic. It’s not always perfectly delivered. Sometimes I cry, sometimes I sing, sometimes I can’t get the right words out and it all comes out in a jumble. But I know He loves how I talk to Him, and He loves to talk to me in His own way.
And now my family is asking me to pray? To share my heart with my Daddy at the dinner table? I don’t know about you guys, but as far as I know, dinnertime prayers usually don’t involve singing or sobbing. So now I’m self-conscious. What do I do? And my focus has gone from my Daddy to my family watching me, to me.

So what I usually do is bow my head, clear my throat, and hurriedly and awkwardly mumble through the same prayer I’ve heard every day of my life.

And it is painful. It is awkward. But once it’s over, it’s over. Then we eat, and we don’t think about it again until dinner the following night.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m done role-playing. I’m done rehearsing the speech in my head before I close my eyes and bow my head. I’m done being self-conscious about performing.

Because it’s not a performance. It’s an interaction. It’s me ministering to God. It’s a chance for me to invite my family, or anyone I’m praying over, into the place in my heart where I approach my Daddy’s throne room and exalt Him.

My challenge is simple: Be real. Be simple.
The next time your family asks you to pray over the meal, or you get an opportunity to pray over someone, let Daddy know what’s really on your heart. If you need to, pause before you speak, inviting Him into the silence, speaking your reverence by not speaking at all. If all you can say is “Thanks, Dad,” as long as it comes out of the abundance of your heart, He’s tickled pink by your genuineness.
If all you can see when you close your eyes is the mountain in front of you, then open your mouth and declare the mountain moved. He doesn’t want flowery sonnets to tumble out of your mouth if they’re not tumbling out of your heart first. He just wants His kids to talk to Him, to be honest with Him.

Jesus said that you can’t get into the kingdom of heaven unless you have the heart of a child.
If you’ve never heard a little child pray, it’s the most beautiful prayer you will ever hear in your life.

When my little brother and sister were really young, they would clasp their hands, knit their eyebrows, and sincerely say, “God, please make sure that all the animals are safe, and that there are no fire trucks or ambulances with lights flashing tonight. Amen.”

How beautiful is that? They didn’t even get to the blessing of the food to nourish our bodies!
But Daddy heard them, and Daddy danced over them.

So be real. Pray whatever’s on your heart. Ditch the ritual and just be honest. Daddy just wants to hear His kids’ hearts.

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