Payer is something we could all probably do more of, until we reach the point where we pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). But how should we pray? The disciples ask Jesus this and Jesus responds with what we now call the Lord’s prayer (Luke 11:1-4). Though what I would like to pick up on is the small phrase “when you pray, say…” (Luke 11:2a). It seems common amongst all but one prayer in the bible (If I am mistaken please correct me) that prayer is spoken. Many times have I heard ‘oh no it’s okay I pray in my head’ or some equivalent.
Now I am not suggesting God will not acknowledge silent prayer from the heart, but I am suggesting that speaking prayers seems to be the way it’s done. Daniel speaks his prayers even at risk to himself (Daniel 6:10-12). One could argue he wasn’t praying aloud, however clearly he was praying in a way that was recognisable to those near by. This leads us to that one time where prayer is non-verbal. 1 Samuel 1:13 reads: ‘Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk’. God listens to the prayers of the heart, but it seems prayer is accompanied by an external acknowledgement also. Eli thought she was drunk, he could see she was doing something, but wasn’t sure as to what.
This is a lesson I took into my own personal prayer life, to always pray aloud, or if I feel I cannot, to move my lips as I pray. We should not be ashamed of talking to our Father, we are children of the light after all! Now do not be mislead, I am not saying we should pray at the top of our voice like the pharisees. Jesus actually commends private and secret prayer: “But 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” (Matthew 6:6). In the same way we look for a quiet spot to take a phone call, out of respect so we can communicate clearly, we should find a private quiet spot to talk to (and hear from) our loving Father, our of respect.
I have found that having to verbalise my prayer pushes me to think it through to get it into understandable words. Doing this helps me process my emotions, my thoughts and my struggles, as I have to think about the right words to use to describe them. Now there won’t always be a way to describe how I feel or what I’m thinking or thanking for, but it’s okay to pray as much as you understand. Sometimes I feel a sadness or bleakness in my chest and I can’t word it better than that, but after explaining to God he helps unravel it. Sometimes we can feel so thankful words don’t even express how thankful we are for such a gift we didn’t deserve, and that’s fine too, but tell God exactly that. I hope this has given you something to think about, it helped my personal prayer life tremendously.
God bless you and keep you always.