Recently, I asked a few friends to write down a one sentence definition of prayer. One was a new Christian. One had been a Christian for a couple years, and one had been a Christian for twenty years.
All three gave this answer: Prayer is talking to God.
I looked at my paper and I’d written the very same thing.
One of my relatives wrote on Facebook yesterday: “So many have told me ‘I don’t know how to pray’……..I tell them to just have a conversation with God…..He just wants us to talk to Him.”
I read it and thought, “That’s good advice.”
And then I wondered why it was so hard to actually do.
I talked to my wise friend Georgine today about prayer, about its sometimes being hard. We agreed that getting comfortable with prayer only happens through experience. She said, “My advice is to DO it.”
As we thought through some of the reasons people might struggle to get started, we both kept coming back to the question, “How?” It’s the question the apostles asked Jesus. And it’s the most common question I’m asked today.
How do you talk to God?
Georgine said, “I can’t help but point to the Bible.” She said, “When you know Who God is, when you read about Him, you’ll know how to talk to Him.”
I thought about that all day today, about how knowing a person influences the way we talk to that person. I thought about the new members dinners at the church I attend and how amazingly stressful they are for introvert-me. I’m sure they’re nice people, all those smiling new faces, but I don’t know them and that’s totally terrifying. I have no idea what to say…
But when I’m with friends, people who love me and want what’s best for me, people I know well and trust, I can’t stop talking. It’s like a faucet turns on and the words spill out.
I think it’s like that with prayer.
If God is a stranger, talking to Him is hard.
If God is a friend, talking is easy.
It’s more nuanced than that, though. Knowing God not only makes it easier to talk, knowing God makes it easier to know what to say.
If God is present, I’ll say different things than if He’s far away. If He’s compassionate I’ll pray differently than if He were callous and cold.
If God is angry with me I’ll avoid Him. But if He loves me like a forgiving father, I’ll climb right into His lap and tell Him all about my day.
If we want to know how to pray, it’s important that we know Who we’re praying to—what He’s like, What He likes, What He can do, and What He wants to do for and with us.
I couldn’t possibly describe God here, not in all His complexity and beauty, but I’d encourage you to pick up your Bible and look. When you do, you’ll find a God…
- Who is “merciful,” Who “will not abandon or destroy you.” (Deut. 4:31)
- Who “goes with you to fight for you.” (Deut. 20:4)
- Who is “gracious and compassionate,” Who will “not turn His face from you if you return to Him.” (2 Chron. 30:9)
- Who is “the Lord Most High,” “awesome, the great King over all the earth.” (Psalm 47:2)
- Who is your “help,” the “one who sustains” you. (Psalm 54:4)
- Who is “able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Cor. 9:8)
- Who “is love.” (I John 4:16)
We’ll pray better and more when we know, really know, that this is the God we’re talking to.