Reflecting on this passage from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, we realize that we are called to pray and give thanks to the Lord in all circumstances and at all times: good and bad, in joy and despair, in hope and hopelessness.
What is prayer?
Prayer can be public as when we boldly proclaim the Lord’s Prayer as part of the Communion Liturgy, pray the Prayer Day, and the Prayers of the Church (Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer). Corporate prayer in the context of Worship is an integral part of the Lutheran Liturgical Tradition. Prayer can be private (even during Worship as we name those for who we pray in our hearts). Prayer can be formal or informal. Scripted or spontaneous. Original or traditional. Verbal or silent. The one thing they all have in common is that these are the ways in which we communicate with God. Regular prayer, public and private, brings us closer to the Father as we speak to him and listen for his response.
Who should pray?
Everyone. Martin Luther pointed out in the Large Catechism (the faith instruction “manual” for pastors) that prayer is not a practice delegated to a select group of “holy” people. All the saints (all believers) are called to pray. Some people have a natural gift for spontaneous public prayer. Others do not. The Holy Spirit has gifted some believers with a deep desire to pray for others (intercessory prayer). The point is that all believers are to pray – daily and in all circumstance.
How should I pray?
Hands folded or arms wide open. Eyes open or closed. Head bowed or lifted to the sky. Sitting or standing, Find the prayer posture that works best for you.
Open your heart and empty it. Lay it before the Lord and start talking, telling him what is on your mind. Don’t try to hide what’s in your heart. If you’re grateful, say “thanks.” If you are in emotional, physical or spiritual pain, say “it hurts.” If you are angry with a situation or with God, boldly tell him. He knows what’s in your heart. He is a kind and gentle father who wants to listen to his children.
Or you can start your prayer by listening and acknowledging God in silence. As David writes in Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.” See him in the beauty of a sunset, the loving glow of a child’s smile, in the warmth of a dear friend, and simply acknowledge his presence.
When should I pray?
In good times and bad, when you are grateful (a new job, a smile from a loved one, a nice dinner), when you need help (loss of a job or relationship, financial difficulties, health concerns), when you need guidance or forgiveness, or when you need to forgive.
How will God answer?
God answers in a variety of ways:
1. God may say “yes”
2. God may say “no”
3. God may say “wait”
4. God may say “I have something better in mind for you”
Whatever the answer, know that God is listening. Jesus assures us of this: “Ask, and it will be given to you; search and you will find, knock and the door will be opened for you.” (Matthew 7:8, NRSV). We must trust that he will keep his promise, even when we cannot discern the answer or feel his presence. It is our faith in our good and gracious God that keeps us talking.
In His Love,