Posted by: mikenicholsblog | August 22, 2013

a great question to start with

Earlier this week, my wife Genel and I were chatting as we drove to work in separate vehicles.  Both of us were confronted with hectic days, so I (without much forethought) said, “Let’s pray.” I am not sure if what happened next was because of my powerful prayer (yeah, right), her worshipful attitude, or just absent-mindedness, but my wife closed her eyes … at 60 miles per hour!  After about two seconds, she said frightfully, “I just closed my eyes.”  Truth be told, all of us have been guilty of absent-mindedness in the course of praying.  Recently, I have been trying to focus more intently while praying, but more about that later. Take a moment to smile as you read some honest prayers offered by children.  I heard these while listening to a message by Pastor John Ortberg.

Aaron-Dear God, are you really invisible or is this just a trick?

Norm- God, did you mean for the Giraffe to look like that, or was it just an accident?

Nan-Dear God, I bet it’s hard for you to love all the people in the world. There are only four people in our family and I want to (get rid of) them.

Joyce- Dear God, Thank you for the baby brother, but what I prayed for was a puppy.

Dear God, it rained for our whole vacation and is my father mad. He said some things about it that people aren’t supposed to say, but I hope You won’t hurt him anyway. Your friend, but I’m not going to tell you who I am.

Oh, from the mouth of babes!  Those honest words from children are simple and beautiful, but they also got me thinking about how easy it is to pray in a way that is immature, selfish, absent-minded and not focused.  In my own journey, I have reflected recently on how I tend to tell God what He needs to do. (As if He can’t figure it out for himself!)  I am serious and humble, but I communicate in a way that leaves a lot to be desired.  It’s my firm opinion that those words will resonate with you, and that you’d likely agree that your own prayer life “… leaves a lot to be desired.” They’d likely resonate with the disciples of Christ who also admitted their weakness in prayer. On a certain occasion, one of the disciples said to Christ, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Struggling in prayer is universal and timeless. However, in my life (and yours), there is a need to communicate well and listen intently because God speaks. Oh Lord, teach us to pray.

My desire is not to share a formula, but rather to share my heart.  Prayer changes things.  So, why not pray with a selfless heart, which is anything but absent-minded and unfocused. Concerned about my own prayer life and challenged with the communication style of asking questions, I have been determined to pray with a different mind-set over the last few weeks.  I decided that most of my prayer time would be in the form of a question.  It has been a work in progress, but I have found my concentration to be much better. Just like in any relationship, asking a question engages us in a conversation.  Instead of saying things like, “God, would you do this, and this, and this in my daughter’s life,” I have begun to ask humble questions like, “Father, would you give me an understanding of how to help her?”  I am sure you get the picture.

Prayer in the form of questions may not suit you, and  I am not insisting that you try. But I do wish to challenge the existence of absent-minded, selfish and unfocused prayer in your personal relationship with God.  If you really want God to teach you to pray, He will … ask Him! That’s a great question to start with, and it’s the one I will end with.  “Lord,  would you teach us how to pray?”


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