Recently I’ve had numerous friends ask me to pray for them. I, of course, say sure, and I have been praying for them. But I have to admit, I think “why me?” I am not a prayer “warrior,” as they say. I’m more like a prayer “fraidy cat.”
I’ve been around some really eloquent pray-ers. People who can make one small request last for three minutes! People who can make “Dear Lord” sound like the most eloquent plea ever. I once was on a mission trip in South Africa, and I got a pretty nasty head cold. I was miserable. One of my fellow travelers asked to pray over me and for four minutes straight asked God repeatedly to “remove the demons making me sick.” Now, I had some serious issues with her thinking demons were making my nose plugged, but I envied her resolution and enthusiasm and persistence. When she was done, she asked if I felt better. I did not. Par for the course for my colds, it moved through my head to my chest and landed in my ears.
In contrast lately though, my prayers have been short and whispered under my breath while driving to and from work. “Lord, help me.” “Lord, help my friend.” Which is precisely why I have found myself wondering why my friends really want me praying for them. There have got to be some better pray-ers out there to pray for them. I feel small and inadequate, and even doubt that I’m heard sometimes.
I don’t always feel this way. Like most things in life, my prayers ebb and flow. Sometimes the connection to God feels crystal clear. Other times, I can only hear static. I get frustrated, and I want to hang up!
So, I recently pulled out Philip Yancey’s book Prayer that I read a couple years ago. With down-to-earth and real words, Yancey addresses the very things any pray-er has got to think from time to time. Is anyone listening? What if I can’t find the right words? Does it even matter? Quantity versus quality? What if it just feels like a chore to check off the list? I flipped through the book and suddenly remembered something: Jesus prayed! Ha! Of course he did. I realize this is a pretty elementary fact, but what a great reminder when you’re wondering why the heck we pray.
Hebrews 5:7 says “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.”
I don’t know if his prayers lasted three minutes or were said under his breath super quickly on his way to preach. But we’re told that he prayed and he was heard. Thus, we pray, and we are heard! Even if we can't see or hear answers.
And interestingly (or maybe not so interestingly), I overheard two women in the bathroom the other day talking about prayer. (I work at a Christian institution so this is not as odd as it would be in most places!) The one woman was telling the other woman that it’s “all about praying like a child because really, that’s what we are, children of God.”
I smiled behind the door of the stall. How does one pray like a child? They say, “Lord, help me.”