I am going to make myself very vulnerable by being honest. I suppose there are dozens of ways to pray. Is there a proper way or a best way?
There are a few people I know who pray beautifully, exquisitely. One lady in our church prays so well, extemporaneously, no notes, that I heard a parishioner after the service say, “I wish Jane had kept praying instead of having to listen to the message.”
I know others who simply don’t know what to say and are very hesitant even in a very small gathering of 4 or 5.
Then there are those who have a brief memorized prayer, even at a meal.
In some churches, most of the prayers are printed and read as liturgy. For me, and this is me, a prayed said by rote, week after week, year after year becomes a routine, not a prayer with passion.
And aren’t you really impressed with pastoral prayers that are used to make the announcements?!
Then there’s me. I pray so simply that I am sometimes embarrassed to pray publicly because I feel that more is expected of me as a Christian leader. Like, I should sound more spiritual! On the other hand, I was praying with a nationally known speaker and radio teacher before a service and after I finished, he said, “I love to you hear you pray. I feel like you really believe God is your Father.” That I consider to be one of the finest compliments I ever received.
Here’s my reasoning: my Heavenly Father is real to me. He’s close, not hard to reach. He’s my “abba, Father”, which I am told loosely means “daddy”. I speak to him with respect but not as some authority to be honored every time we “speak”.
I speak to Him in plain English. I do not speak the King’s English or Shakespearian English. They sound so wonderful, but to do that would be pretense and I’d have to be thinking more about choice of words than content.
Imagine speaking to my dad: “O thou great and wonderful father. I come to thee this moment seeking your good will and blessing, relying on your generosity, to beg of thee the use of thy waterfront cottage for a week of vacation. If thou wilt deign to honor this request, I will handle it with great care. I will return it to thee cleaner than when I received it. Thank you in advance for your kindness and goodness and caring for my every need plus this additional request. I honor you for your kindness and generosity.”
Are you kidding me?
How about, “Dad, would you consider allowing me to use the cottage for a week? I’ll take good care of it and leave it in good condition.”
But what about the fact that He is Almighty God? Where is the honor due Him?
My answer is simple: I think of Him that way all the time. I have a very difficult time singing my favorite hymn, “Holy! Holy! Holy!” without my eyes becoming moist, and my favorite praise/worship song is, “I Stand, I Stand in Awe of You”. I am fully aware of Who He is. But isn’t there a time to relax and be familial?
For example: I have a series of friends and family who have a variety of needs. When first asking, I spell out in detail what the situation is. So, when I pray, I am apt to say, “Father, I bring to you again my request for the health issues of Bob, Sue, John, Pete, Carol, (etc) and ask you to meet their needs. My specific prayer is that you would keep them from pain and suffering and that you would guide the doctors and caregivers who are looking after them.” Somehow, I feel that God remembers from day-to-day what the details are. When they change, I change (update). When there is progress, I thank the Lord for the progress.
The same goes for situations of all kinds: financial, family challenges, job situations, interpersonal relationships, etc.
And I pray with particular emotion regarding those things for which I am thankful: my health, meeting our financial needs, our family, our wonderful residence, our opportunities to serve, etc.
I mean, I really appreciate His goodness to me.
In addition, I do not feel I am heard for being loquacious or repeating my request in full detail each time I pray. Many times at communal meals someone is asked to pray for the food and then thanks God for Who He is and reminds us of His attributes, then prays for the missionaries around the world, and on and on, then finally seems to remember that we were going to say, “Thank you Lord for this food set before us”!
So what am I saying? I feel that God is not impressed with the style of our prayer but is really interested in the sincerity and fervency of it.
What do you think?
Written By Neil Fichthorn: Rev. Neil Fichthorn is a seasoned conference and camping servant having served at Gull Lake Bible Conference, Sandy Cove Ministries as President, and an interim Executive Director at Pinebrook Bible Conference. He also served in church music for decades as a choir director and arranger. He has been Bill Welte’s mentor and friend for over 45 years.