Layman’s prayer

Today’s blog is from Loran Sell, member of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, and my friend. Enjoy.

Perhaps many of you were raised like I was with the impression that worship and prayer were very formal.  There was some kind of template that needed to be followed to pray correctly. There was a right way to pray. Ie. Come, Lord Jesus; Now I lay me down to sleep; Our Father, Who are in Heaven.

I grew up in the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church. I’m sure that “saved by grace” and “talking with God” were present in my learning but the message was masked with the formality.  There were petitions of forgiveness and praise that needed to be included in each prayer if you were going to do it right.
Formality in prayer definitely has a place in services, organized events, and even in personal prayer. But if it’s just repeating the words without letting their meaning sink in, are you praying or reciting?
Where I actually learned to pray was sitting on a bench outside the barn,  probably an old buggy seat, with my Reoganized Laterday Saints grandmother while Grandpa and Dad milked the cows. She shared Bible stories, we sang Jesus loves me and This Little Light.  We imagined shapes in the clouds and thanked God for them. Yes, we prayed. I learned that Jesus loves me and I could talk with him about whatever was on my mind.
I also learned that God answers prayers. When I was a child, perhaps 5 or 6, Santa brought me a bat and ball for Christmas.  I was anxious try them out but the yard was covered with several feet of snow. Against the advise of my parents I went out between the drifts to play catch with myself. You can probably guess what happened next.  When I batted the ball it disappeared into the snow. I looked and looked. I prayed asking God to help me find my ball. I looked some more, but to no avail.  When the snow melted there in the middle of the yard was my ball. The words “God answers prayers in his way an time, not ours” came back to me.
So when should we pray?  Jesus said “pray unceasingly “so I’d say “anytime.”  When narrowly avoiding an accident, “Thank you God.”  When something good happens, “praise the Lord.”  When you screw up, ” Please forgive me, Lord.  I did it again. Give me the strength to resist the next temptation. ” When you feel weak or uncertain, ” Dear Jesus, please walk with me and give me the strength to do this. “
What about when you are disappointed or angry? Is it ok to be angry with God? The Rodney Atkin’s lyrics “talking to God like he was talking to a friend” tells the story. We can pray like we are talking to a friend. Do you every get mad at a friend? If you want to stay friends you probably talk about it. The same goes for God. Tell him about it.
I believe God hears and answers our prayers.  Where we get into trouble is placing our expectations on God’s answer. We think “How can God let this bad thing happen? Didn’t he hear my prayer? ”  Be assured, he heard. He may not, however, give you the answer you want.
I sometimes find that telling God my troubles helps me talk through a problem. Just getting it off my chest and thinking it through often produces an answer and it makes me feel better. If I feel better, hasn’t God answered my prayer?
It wouldn’t be right to write about prayer without praying, so allow me to share my prayer for this blog with you.
Dear Lord, Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts on prayer with this audience. Please help me find words that express the ease, value and importance of prayer that are acceptable in your sight and of assistance to others. Forgive me for the times when I fail to come to you or assist others who I could help with a prayer. May these thoughts find a home in at least one heart and help and encourage them to come to you in prayer.   In Jesus name I ask this of you.  Amen