Thursday, October 9, 2014

Conversational Prayer

Growing up people prayed in King James English. I guess that makes sense because most non-Catholics read that version of the Bible. By the way, there's nothing wrong with still reading the King James Version (KJV), but it's not the only reliable one out there! However, it has proven to be true to the intent and is a "word for word" translation. Many Bible versions today are mere "phrase", "thought" or "paraphrase" translations. Plus, the KJV, is poetic. It is pleasant to read!

Moving back to "prayer", I always thought it was strange when I was young to hear adults speak so artificially. I guess it was natural and became sort of a prayer language. It had the disadvantage that many people would not pray out loud because they did a poor job of speaking an archaic language. With that, I always felt uncomfortable when praying and pretty much just said the bare minimum aloud and most often just prayed silently.

Many years later I considered "conversational prayer". It's not complicated! When praying it's only necessary to speak to God as a person speaks with anyone else. I liken it to speaking to my daddy. I always treated him with respect and love and that's all God wants!

Do you pray out loud? Likely, if you don't, it's because you feel insecure because you don't think that pray you well. "Praying well" isn't a requirement for praying out loud. Praying so that others hear requires a few things: 1) It must be a conversation with God, not a speech to impress others. 2) The prayer must be sincere. 3) The prayer is to magnify God; and 4) Praying is as much listening as it is speaking! (It's okay to pause for reflection).

God  gave us an example how we are to pray. Here's a modern version with today's vocabulary:

The Lord's Prayer
Matthew 6:9b (ESV) “Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.
"Our Father in heaven" (acknowledging God's majesty - praise)
"hallowed be your name" (blessing God - reverence)
"your kingdom come" (faith in God - kingdom of God is our hope)
"your will be done" (what's right and "good" - strength of our prayer)
"on earth as it is in heaven" (here and now - without any sin-purity)
"give us this day our daily bread" (provide our needs-our request)
"and forgive us our debts" (sorrow and repentance-asking forgiveness)
"as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Golden Rule-showing love for others)
"and lead us not unto temptation" (protect us from deception of the devil-ask for a hedge around ourselves)
"and deliver us from evil" (provide the power to us to avoid sin)

This prayer can really be broken down into four parts: 1) Love God (6:9-11), 2) Our prayer request(s) (6:11), 3) Seek forgiveness for current sins (6:12a) and 4) Protect us from the devil (6:13).  It is to be noted that before we pray for any need to repent of our own sin, we must first make things right with others (6:12b):
Matthew 5:23 (ESV) "So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go.24 First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 
Note that it's not that you are at odds with another, but that another is at odds with you! That means that you may not be at fault, but still have the obligation to mend things with the other person. That's stringent, but that's what Jesus said to do! What gift are you bringing to the altar? Your praise! Don't praise God until you reconcile with your "brother", then come back and pray! (Pray is short for praise!) Reconciliation is a pre-requisite to asking for forgiveness for yourself or even for God to meet your needs. Why should he forgive you when you and your "brother" are still at odds? He doesn't!

What keeps people from making amends? Pride! Pride stands in the way of loving others. You love yourself more than them, but we're all told to love our "neighbors" as we do ourselves. By not reconciling, we're still putting "ME" first and the neighbor is not being loved! When this is done, then you can say your prayer!

Here's how I would pray:

1) Listen to God. Has he placed a name of a brother on my heart to whom amends need to be made?
2) If yes. Go to that person and ask for forgiveness. That person has perceived a problem in me and whether it's real or not, it must be cleared up such that we love each other. Then pray!
3) If no. Then pray:
4) God, you are so powerful that I credit you for me even being here and speaking with you. I know that you are my creator and I want to do what you would have me do. I look forward to the day I can kneel in front of you face to face and honor you as you deserve. I have many things to ask of you, but please, let me ask for what's good in your own eyes. Forgive me if I ask for things which may take my eyes off you, but these requests are what I really need for you to honor. I first I want to thank you for my food, shelter, health, family and church. You have been generous with me and it's appreciated! I have a special request that I ask of you, if it's in your will (name request(s)). I know that I sinned today (name the sin) and I want to ask you to forgive me. I have been weak and can only confess.  God, please keep me from sinning, even being deceived by temptation. My desire is to follow you, but I am weak and need your help. I ask that with your power, God, that you keep me from sinning.  Amen. ("True". That doesn't mean "the end", but that what you pray is truth). Don't pray what is not truth.

Since Jesus, is our mediator we ask for these things in "Jesus name"!

That's the Lord's Prayer, but in my own words! I'm praying as he tells me to pray and it will be honored if it's his will and I'm sincere! That's "conversational prayer". There are no flowery words nor King James English. I can even say it in my natural vernacular; country talk. He just wants it to be what he asked it to be!

Before you pray in a group, get comfortable with talking to God. Pray aloud at home for awhile before praying in public. If you're timid or shy, you will get a special blessing for reaching out to him. Even if you mess up by stuttering, pausing or whatever; your prayer will be honored. For myself, I have an itch in the throat only when I pray. I stop and cough. I've learned to live with that because it's just a little nervousness and perhaps a sub-conscious stall tactic to think about what I'm praying. That's okay!
Philippians 4:6 (ESV) "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."
That coughing when I pray; that's anxiety! It's not to bother me. I'm to bring everything to God in prayer!  You will be blessed by doing it out loud and as an extra bonus, your mind won't wander off when praying! Supplication is to do it humbly. God's not a genie. He's God. He's towers way above us and we are to lower to ourselves to our position. We're servants who are to love God and have high reverence for him! That's why we start our prayer with reverence. That's our own recognition that we are dependent on God. He knows that already, but he wants to hear it! That's how we are to pray.

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