My prayer life is a true struggle for me. I pray, but I wouldn’t say I pray well … whatever that means. (How does one “pray well?”)
Jesus prayed often. This is so much the case that Luke 22:39 describes Jesus as going off to pray and characterizes that with the phrase, “…as was his custom.” If ever lived a man who could navigate the trails of human life in the absence of prayer, Jesus was that man, but Jesus seemed to embody Paul’s exhortation to us, “Pray without ceasing.”1
Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven:
– Lamentations 3:41, ESV
Prayer comes about in myriad styles or fashions. Some of this variety comes through posture. Many will lift their hands in prayer whether standing or seated. Others will prostrate themselves, face to the ground. Still others will kneel in prayer while some dance as they pray.
Some will shout their prayers as an expression of praise or of grief. Others pray silently. Some pray with eyes open – others eyes closed. Some will write out their prayers as a journal or to be read before the congregation. Others pray extemporaneously.
We have biblical examples and instructions regarding prayer, and from examining these, it seems the only prohibition when it comes to prayer is the prayer of vain babbling and theatrical length.
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
– Matthew 6:5-8, NIV-1978
What I have come to realize is that, more than posture or eloquence, what is at issue before God is the posture of my heart. Yes, I can lift my hands. I can lift my voice. I can utter phrases with great fervor and passion. But much better it is to tear open my chest (metaphorically) and say, “Lord, here is my heart.
As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
– Psalm 42:1-2, NIV-1978
The pure heart is a heart that will “pant after God,” and it is out of that pure heart that we are to cry out to God.2
If I had cherished sin in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened;
but God has surely listened
and has heard my prayer.
Praise be to God,
who has not rejected my prayer
or withheld his love from me!
– Psalm 66:18-20, NIV-1978
So, when I am feeling dry in my prayer life, I don’t need another prayer book or prayer acronym to help me through that time. What I need is to reflect on my heart. When my heart is true and pure, the throne room of God is an inviting venue.
…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
– Hebrews 10:22, NIV-1978
1. 1 Thessalonians 5:17
2. 2 Timothy 2:22