How to Pray. First off, let’s begin with a simple description. Prayer is communicating with God. So it is important to me as your priest (for the length you read this piece anyway) that you know who God is. I believe in the God revealed in Jesus of Nazareth. That God he called Abba, “daddy,” and spent a great deal of his teaching on his character as a loving, compassionate, healing, forgiving, who had a vision for “his” children. We call that vision “the kingdom of God” where we love, care, heal, forgive, and live with each other in peace. Oh, yeah, and care for the Creation. We are made for this.
Now, my understanding for this is hugely shaped by my kids. I love them and have hopes for them, and I want them to come and be with me, to talk to me, to be respectful and honest, to bring me their whole selves, and to grow. I want them to live into my hopes for them, but that is not all of our relationships.
So how can this image help you pray?
- First off, just be with God. Pay attention to the fact that God is present. How do you hug a Spirit?
- Second, bring your self and your stuff. God can deal with you in your pettiness and your world changing awesomeness. Read the Psalms and other prayers of the Bible. They are full of petty whining and greatness.
- Third, be reverent which is just respect for the divine. I would extend this outward from prayer. Be reverent about the name of God and God’s children. Human beings are holy (even if they don’t always live into it.) Your prayers should be deeply reverent of God, human beings, and the Creation. Just like my kids get my best when they speak carefully of others.
- Fourth, just be with God. Let yourself be loved too. Too few of us are practiced at being loved. Most people don’t know how great God’s love is. It gets relegated to an idea (the cross or salvation or some creed.) But the God I know and worship in Jesus is wildly in love with you. Yep. Even though you are weird and broken and tattooed or have those odd-looking chicken legs. You know God knows those legs and loves them as surely as I love my children’s quirks and beautiful idiosyncrasies.
God wants you to hang out. I miss my kids when they are off being themselves in other rooms.
Now, I am not a great dad. I have issues with control and self-centeredness. I embarrass my beloved family too much to even capture here. But I want the best for them. I want their wholeness, and I want my children to be responsible and free, loving and kind and good. And I want them to share that part of them too.
I want to hear their stories and heal their hurts. I want to let them handle what they can and defend them to no end. And I am a mediocre dad. Imagine what God must be like, loving and balancing love for seven billion of us. Disappointed and hopeful, tearful and laughing.
So crawl up next to God and bring your whole self. That is the essence of prayer.