Christianity 106: Learn to Pray
Prayer is a learned response to needs and problems. Our human inclination is to worry and stew, not to pray. We analyze, obsess, and try to tiptoe, maneuver, or steamroll our way through our difficulties. If we can get our heads screwed on straight about prayer, we’ll be much better off.
Our passage opens with a summary statement: We ought to pray at all times and not lose heart!
This sounds simple and reasonable, but many Christians just don’t do much praying. It’s not part of their routine. They think they don’t have the time or the vocabulary. Some don’t pray because they think it’s useless (“It won’t do any good”).
Others don’t pray because they don’t think they have standing to say anything to God (“Why would God listen to me?”).
Still others don’t pray because they don’t know how (“I can’t pray like the preacher or the Sunday school teacher”). But I think most Christians who are underutilizing prayer have simply never gotten into the habit and they rarely think to do it.
The first parable tells of a widow who repeatedly petitions a judge for legal protection. The judge provides what she seeks and indicates that it was the woman’s persistence that persuaded him to act. Jesus then draws the parallel with our prayers, teaching that we ought to pray (cry) to Him day and night.
Our constant petitioning of the Lord in prayer has a positive effect. He’s not asking for meaningless repetition, but regular, consistent engagement in prayer.
This lady knew exactly what she needed and she knew whom to ask. She asked the judge for legal protection. We don’t always know what we need, but we do know whom to go to: our Heavenly Father!
The second parable tells of a tax collector praying in the temple. He keeps his face down while he prays with great intensity and humility.
This man doesn’t present a list of requests and doesn’t ask God to solve his problems. Well, maybe he does. This man says, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” He actually is dealing with his biggest problem: the need for God’s mercy. His prayer was neither fancy nor complicated.
The primary thrust of this passage is this: Tell God what’s on your heart.Communicate with God. You already know Who to go to. Now do it!
When you know what you need, ask for it persistently. But remember that prayer is more about connecting with God than presenting a list. Like the tax collector, recognize that our greatest need is for His mercy – which He dispenses copiously and freely.
– The ETB writer for the spring quarter is a South Carolinian who formerly served Southern Baptists in a closed country. We are honoring his request not to publish identifying information.