I was wondering if you would at all be interested in reading my inconsequential blog if you thought you might somehow be able to spare just a tiny bit of your time to get around to it at some point in the undetermined future — but only if, of course, you don’t think you might possibly have better things to do…
Hmm. I’m wondering who actually made it this far and still thought there might be anything worthwhile here for you to consider.
By the time you got finished with all my hem-hawing around, chances are that you weren’t even certain what I had been troubling you for in the first place.
But here’s the thing. You see, you and I may not know each other very well. We may not know each other at all, as a matter of fact. We may be utterly complete strangers. And everyone knows that good etiquette requires a certain amount of beating around the bush when making an important request – from a stranger, no less. Just ask Miss Manners.
Of course, if I wanted my friends to read my blog, I’d politely tell them about it, invite them to read it, and likely provide a link occasionally to offer up as a strong hint (to guilt them into reading it). Okay, that’s pretty much what I do. Well, that’s at least one step better than the way I approached you with my ‘unfamiliar stranger’ request.
We’re timid and nearly apologetic to the stranger when communicating (by stumbling through) our request. Less so with a friend, though still somewhat reticent.
Are you starting to get how this relates to our prayer interactions with God?
The book that I’m currently reading as part of my online study to become certified (again) as a lay speaker makes an incredibly strong (of world class body-building magnitude, as a matter of) point:
Too often, we approach God in prayer as if we’re talking to a stranger.
Many times, we aren’t even sure of what we should be saying. But more often than not, we waste of lot of everyone’s time (both ours & God’s – and whoever else is unfortunate enough to be listening in) by failing to get to our point.
So we’ve just acknowledged that we’re less formal and a little more direct toward someone with whom we share some common tie or interest. But let’s take it one step closer…
How do we interact with our closest family members, the ones we know best and with whom we share intimacy?
Would you speak to your spouse or sibling in either of the above described methods? (If so, I’m going to suggest relational counseling to break down this barrier of unfamiliarity.)
Most of us probably wouldn’t waste that many words trying to get to the point with our “in circle.” Instead, I’m more prone to personally address my closest family members in ways such as:
“Hey, come over here and look at this post. Tell me what you think.”
“I need that computer for blogging when you’re done. Hey, wait, don’t run off. I need you to take a look at my post for today.”
Closer relationships have a tendency to equate to more direct communications, particularly in conveying our expectations or requesting a response. With that being said…
Which of the 3 communication styles described above are closest to your prayer talks with God?
Intimate Family Member?
Chances are that it’s not Number 3. Mine either.
For some reason, number 3 seems over-demanding to us, even as God’s children. (I’m a southern “gurl,” so even the thought of sounding sacrilegious comes to my mind!)
Funny how we were born into the world learning to express our desires to our earthly parents – even before we could speak their language; yet, we can’t seem to bring ourselves to have that same close communication style – that intimacy (and trust in response) – with our heavenly parent.
He didn’t hem-haw around. He got directly to the point, and the verbs he used were what Stookey (2001) refers to as vigorous.
In Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus gets right to the action-packed point when teaching His followers how to pray:
Vigorous verbs require action. Action verbs are the ones we use for ourselves when we expect to get results. Apparently, God means for us to call Him into action (rather than limiting Him with pacifying redundancy) in our prayers – expecting results. And we can – when our petitions come from a scriptural basis not taken out of context (meaning we can be more assured they are aligned with God’s ways and His will). Then we’re not wasting God’s time in making them, nor are we being rude in our directness.
By addressing God in an unswerving manner with our needs and desires, whether personal or intercessory, communication is enhanced, thus improving our chances of receiving a more fruitful response.
God may know our hearts and our desires, but I’m pretty sure He wants us to be 100% honest and certain about them too. (Do try to remember that some responses may be “No, not in this particular circumstance, child,” or just “Not yet, but wait until you see what I have in store for your life.”)
Oh, sure, God could spare a little time to answer our drawn out excuses at some undetermined point in the future. But God isn’t our genie in a bottle, waiting to pop out to fulfill our every passing fancy. God truly does have better things to do than be like the character on I Dream of Jeannie – always cleaning up messes that were created by fulfilling every tiny whim.
That should serve as a good reminder that our prayers shouldn’t come from self-centered desires (like me wanting someone to read my blog for my own ego’s sake). They should be aligned with a purpose – God’s purpose for our lives (like me hoping someone will draw nearer to God and have a more active – and exciting – prayer life after meditating on this blog’s reflection).
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Here’s a fun exercise to do, to help you begin to make an Action-Packed Prayer List of Vigorous Verbs. Write A-Z down a column on a piece of paper. Then try to think of at least 1 vigorous verb for every letter on your list that you could use when petitioning God. (This was one of my assignments this week, so I sat down with 2 friends yesterday and we thought up quite a few. I’ve included a sample below, in case you get stuck and need to borrow some!)
Accentuate (our gifts for ministry)
Build (Your Kingdom here on earth)
Calm (our spirits in times of trouble)
Direct (us to do Your will)
Enlighten (us with Your Word)
Fill (us with Your Spirit)
Generate (a new desire in us aligned with Your will)
Heal (our congregation during this time of loss)
Instruct (us in Your ways)
Journey (before us & with us in this new endeavor)
Kindle (our spirits to action)
Lead (us on Your path of righteousness)
Multiply (our gifts for Your kingdom)
Nurture (the broken in this place)
Ordain (us to do Your work)
Pour (out Your love upon us, that we might pour it out on others)
Qualify (us to do Your good work through this educational experience)
Replenish (our minds, bodies & souls for this task)
Stand (in the gap for us)
Teach (us to meditate on Your Word and Your ways)
Unify (the body of Christ for Your service)
Validate (our efforts in this ministry)
Walk (with us)
Xerox (your love in our hearts for others)
Yoke (us to you)
Zing (us with a dose of Your Holy Spirit)
Stookey, Laurence H. (2001). Let the whole church say Amen: A guide for those who pray in public. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.