Yesterday I suggested that fasting should be different if you weren’t not a monastic, but fasting without prayer is just a diet. So today I ask, do you pray? I mean do you really pray, or do you just list off a litany of needs and wants and expect God to “answer your prayers” and give you what you want? Prayer is a central aspect of our relationship with God and the Saints. Without proper prayer, we might just be listening to ourselves talk.
A regular conversation I have with faithful people is about prayer. An astonishingly night number of Christians prefer what I call the “random freelance prayer” by insisting that we should say whatever comes into our mind rather than reading from a prayer book. These freelance prayers also tend, in my experience, to be nothing more than a shopping list. “Please heal Jimmy from cancer. Please find Susie a job.” Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t bad that we should be praying for Jimmy and Susie, but what makes us think we know what they need? Maybe Susie shouldn’t get a job right now. Maybe it is better for Jimmy not to be cured. Where is the room for God’s will in the Jimmy’s and Susie’s situation?
What if our prayer was, “God bless Jimmy and Susie.” Isn’t it enough to love them and God enough to trust that God knows what they need? For some reason we prefer to think we always know better. One example of this is when we say, “God answered my prayers today,” when what we really mean is, “God gave me what I wanted today.” When was the last time you said, “God answered my prayers today. He said no?”
During Great Lent we are supposed to be working on our relationship with God. We can’t forget His invitation to “deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Me.” (Mark 8.34) It is the deny ourselves part that Great Lent is trying to emphasize, and when our prayer is a litany of what WE think is best, we aren’t denying ourselves at all. That is really the ultimate risk of the random freelance prayer. If we leave it to our minds, we inevitably with think in a selfish manner, listing only needs that WE think are important.
My challenge for you today and the rest of Great Lent is to rethink how you pray. Do you offer your will to God, or impose you will on Him? Is your prayer a litany of selfish demands, or a time of giving Him glory and asking for His mercy? Remember! When the disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray, He didn’t say, “Just say whatever comes to your mind.” He gave them the Lord’s Prayer. He taught them how to pray because their selfish minds (our selfish minds) would come up with that prayer alone. Happy praying!