Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could “do away with ads/commercials altogether?” Most of the time, I find ads annoying. They interrupt the story in a television show, are interjections in my e-mail and social media time, and get stuck in my head with the repetitive jingles or tag lines meant to help me remember their product or service. I go out of my way to avoid them – my DVR is my friend, I play CD’s in the car rather than listen to the radio, and I skip ads online as soon as the web will allow it! Ads seem to take a lot of my time. It strikes me as odd that this is exactly what we do when we pray to God – take up God’s time with repetitive prayers and interruptions that seem urgent to us. But isn’t that what prayer is all about? If we can’t pray prayers that are familiar to us, then what can we pray? How should we pray?
Jesus taught his disciples how to pray. The Lord’s Prayer* is an example of a repetitive prayer that we often say. Is it wrong to pray this prayer? No. In fact, Jesus gave us this prayer as an example to remind us of our relationship to God. Several years ago, The Prayer of Jabez* was the “in” prayer to pray. There’s nothing wrong with praying written or memorized prayers! It isn’t what you pray – it is how you pray! What’s the difference? It is a matter of our attitude. Let’s think about ads again. There are some ads that have clever copy that you remember and can recite even after several years of not hearing or seeing that ad. They have a stick-to-it-ness that catches our attention. We sing them, think about them, replay them in our minds – and we smile. We give these ads a priority in our brain because they grab our attention.
Now, let’s think about prayer again. Why do you pray? Do you pray to develop your relationship with God – or do you pray to “get something from God?” Think about the difference in how we pray! If we are excited about becoming more in tune with God, we will begin our prayers with praises and thanksgiving. Our minds will be filled with joy. If we are thinking about our wants and problems, then our minds are cluttered with worry and doubt. We begin with a “list” of wants or problems and that becomes our prayer focus. If our relationship with God is our primary focus, then our prayers will be outward focused. Annoying ads refocus our attention and help us think about something else. Ads get our attention! So how can we pray as committed Christians and get refocused in our spiritual lives?
The Bible is full of specific prayers. We don’t read the Scriptures this way, but every conversation Moses had with God IS a prayer. Every Psalm IS a prayer. In fact, excluding the Psalms, the Bible has recorded 650 prayers. I think God is using the refrain, “PRAY” because God wants our attention. Think of how much time Jesus spent in prayer. When we are preoccupied with ourselves, then we aren’t focused on God - who deserves our undivided attention. How you pray is important. How do you pray? Has God got your attention yet?
Rev. Bev Hall, pastor of Pleasant Hills United Methodist Church, Middleburg Heights, OH
* The Lord’s Prayer is found in Matthew 6:9-13 or Luke 11:2-4 * The Prayer of Jabez is found in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 and was made popular in a book by Bruce Wilkinson.