Summary: A series on Prayer, called Conversations with God!
Conversations with God
How to . . . Pray
May 8, 2016
For the past few weeks we’ve been looking at Conversations with God. We have lots of conversations with God. We come to God for many reasons, most of the time we want something from God. Last week, I mentioned that often times we don’t know how to pray. Sometimes, it’s just starting. Just talk to God and you end up in the flow of the conversation . . . and that conversation is prayer.
But let me step way back when it comes to prayer. I want to ask you what I think is a pretty startling question ~ Do you believe in prayer? That’s pretty simple. But it gets to the deepest point of our prayer life.
Do you believe in prayer?
I told this story a number of years ago . . . When I was 12 years old, I was called into the office of Henry Sokolow. I have to admit, I was afraid of him, he seemed so intimidating. Mr. Sokolow was the superintendent of the Hebrew School I was attending and he wanted to ask me about my upcoming Bar Mitzvah. I vividly remember his question, because it scared me, “Michael, do you believe in prayer?”
Between the time he asked the question and the time I answered, maybe two seconds elapsed, but I ran through a gamut of possible answers. I wasn’t sure what to do, because to be honest, I didn’t really believe in prayer, I didn’t know what prayer was. I knew if I said, “No, I don’t believe in prayer.” My life would flash before me, I’d be in big trouble. If I said yes, I would be lying. As a 12 year old whose life was about to end . . . you can guess how I answered, “Of course I believe in prayer.” Mr. Sokolow said, “Good, that will be the topic of your Bar Mitzvah speech.”
That was in 1971; almost 45 years ago. I can still remember some of that speech. I remember an illustration and one crucial sentence. This one sentence has stayed with me all these years. It was this, “Do not pray as a perfunctory act.” It was the first big word I ever publically said - - and actually understood what it meant. Perfunctory means - “to perform a task with a minimum of effort, to do something with apathy; to be dispassionate, detached, halfhearted, indifferent, lukewarm, and spiritless.
I think you get the point. Is this how we approach prayer. Kind of like it is a necessary evil. It’s expected . . . I better do it, or I’m doomed. I better believe in it or I’m smitten.
Prayer should never be perfunctory. We shouldn’t go through the motions and assume that’s good enough for God. Yet, if I were to take a poll, there are many people who might agree with me when I was 12; questioning prayer, especially whether it works.
There are too many people who struggle with prayer. Is it worth it? Is it effective? How do I do it? Is there a right way or a wrong way? How do I know if I get an answer to my prayers? And our list can go on and on . . .
If you wanted to get to know me, what would you do? You would begin to have a relationship with me. You would call me, invite me out for a meal, and get to know me. My point is - in order to know someone, we must communicate with them. Without that communication we will not have a relationship.