Praying to Understand Prayer
I think it’s easy for a lot of folks to get intimidated by prayer. We come to it thinking that there’s a certain way to pray, a right way to pray (and therefore wrong ways to pray as well). Do you know what I mean? Certain phrases and ways of speaking that make a good prayer. If you’re from a more formal religious background, that probably means a certain number of “thees” and “thous,” as in, “Oh Lord, we beseech thee that that thou wouldst grant thy servant…” and so forth. If you’re from a more informal tradition, on the other hand, then the word “just” pops up with some regularity: “We just pray to you, Lord, asking that you would just listen to our hearts as we just lay them bare to you and just name your name….” and so on.
But what if praying isn’t about doing something right, but just about doing? What if, that is, there is no right or wrong way to pray, but only praying…and not praying. If this is the case, then maybe the only way to learn to pray is by trying it, by doing it. Kind of like swimming – you can receive all kinds of instruction but sooner or later you just have to jump in. And, like swimming, it’s usually not quite as frightening as it appears.
In the following short video, Hulda, a ninety-three year-old member of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, talks about one of the challenges she has experienced in her prayer life. Actually, it wasn’t just a challenge, but more of a crisis. She wasn’t sure she believed anymore, and if she didn’t believe, she wondered, why should she pray. Unsure of what to do next, she started praying, asking God to help her through this difficult time and, all of a sudden, she realized that if she were praying to God to help her with her doubt about God she must have a little more faith than she realized! The prayer itself, as she says, became the answer to her prayer.
Maybe there’s a lot of prayer that is like that. Maybe the answer to our questions about prayer lay in the act of praying itself. If so, then like Hulda there’s no reason to wait. Right here, right now, prayer is available to you. So let us pray….
Notes: 1) If you are receiving this post by email, you may need to click here to watch the video.
2) My thanks to Ben Cieslik, videographer and pastor extraordinaire, for sharing this video with me and, now, with you. You can catch more of Ben’s videos by clicking on the link attached to his name above.
3) Post image by Vladimir Dmitrov, “Women’s Prayers,” (detail)