So, when turning to the scriptures to find and get answers to our questions, what role should prayer play? How can we ensure that we are involving God appropriately into the equation, so it’s not just an intellectual exercise to study the scriptures, but a spiritual one? The scriptures that tell us to ask and we shall receive, who are we asking? Are we asking the scriptures, or are we asking God? How do we structure that conversation?
I’ll admit, my prayers are not as sincere right now as they have been in the past. I find myself often turning to the same phrases that I’ve said many times, and not really thinking about what I’m saying.
“But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think they shall be heard for their much speaking” (Matthew 6:7)
Now, there’s nothing wrong with repeating the same thing every day, as long as it isn’t vain, right? But what does vain mean? One definition is “having no meaning or likelihood of fulfillment”. So a vain repetition is to repeat something without it meaning anything. If I pray for something and I really mean it, it doesn’t matter if I said the same prayer yesterday or 2 minutes ago. I just need to say prayers with meaning.
So, how do we say prayers with meaning? There are probably lots of ways, and I encourage you to write your thoughts in the comments. Here are some ideas that I’ve had as I’ve pondered the subject:
- Remove formality. Make your language as regular as possible. Act like God is in the room with you, and you are having a conversation.
- Listen. If you are having a conversation, and especially if you are asking questions, take the time to listen.
- Think about what you’re saying. When giving prayers in public, we might feel a little uncomfortable if a person pauses to find their next words. Why should that make us uncomfortable. Isn’t that the essence of praying?
- Pause. Try throwing in pauses into your prayers. At least one pause per prayer. It could be a pause to listen, a pause to think about what to say next, or a pause for the sake of stillness, or to feel the presence of your maker. “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)
- Keep the conversation going. God asked us to “pray always”. I believe that means that we can talk to God in many different ways. We can think questions to him at any time, whether or not our eyes are closed. One of my favorite prayer activities is to try to converse with God throughout the day, about as many things as possible. Ask Him questions, tell Him what you are thinking, all throughout the day. This can bring so much spiritual closeness.
Prayer is an essential part of scripture study and spiritual development. We must take things to the Lord, and we must constantly look for ways to improve the way we communicate with God. As we look for ways to add meaning to our prayers and communication with God, he will guide us to the questions and answers that we should be seeking, whether through the scriptures or some other way.