“God’s there listening for all who pray, all who pray and mean it.”That phrase makes me wonder. Do we sometimes pray and not really mean it? Do we “have not because we ask not?” Are we dealing with a case of insincere prayer, sometimes?
How does one pray and not mean what they pray? It’s an interesting question. It resonates with something I learned in one of the workshops that I attended at Leadership Institute. The workshop was led by Rev. Dr. Constance Cherry and it focused on corporate prayer during worship services. She asked a question that really put the importance of prayer in perspective. If the people in this congregation only had me to teach them to pray, what would their concept of God be like? We may not realize it, but prayer is an important part of a worship service and we need to give it the same consideration that we give other elements as well.
Are we demonstrating that prayer is a conversation? Are we showing them that God is vast, wondrous and close? Do we acknowledge God’s presence? Bottom line, are we teaching our members how to pray?
You may think that is an odd question but think about it, do we teach our members how to pray just for the sake of praying or do we teach them how to have a conversation with God. A conversation involves not only talking but also listening. People know how to talk, the fine art of listening-sometimes that isn’t as strongly or equally emphasized. Dr. Cherry did an informal study and discovered that in all services, prayer time has become less and less during corporate worship. Corporate worship, our Sunday morning services, are prime opportunities to model prayer conversation. We shy away from quiet or silence because it’s uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable in worship and it’s uncomfortable in private prayer time. We, as a society, have become accustomed to noise!
And perhaps that is where the insincere praying comes in to play. We pray a lot but do we ever stop and listen? Imagine how frustrating that must be to God. “Here I am! I hear you! Could you stop talking long enough so I can speak to you?” What would God have to say to you if he could get a word in edgewise? Interesting thought to consider, if you ask me! It may be frightening to some but if you look at the list of attributes that David writes about, God wants to speak lovingly, not in a harsh negative manner. Sure, the possibility exists that there may be some correction but God is slow to anger! So chances are, there will be a lot of good things, if we are willing to stop long enough to listen!
Can we learn to become comfortable with silence again in our worship services and in our private prayer time? Can we pray our prayer and wait patiently and quietly for a response? Can we begin to converse with God again and have a sincere conversation? Will we learn the fine art of pausing and waiting for the presence of the Lord?
I know that this is a goal for me over the next year. Talk less, listen more! Lord give me strength because quietly waiting is not one of my stronger qualities! But I’m willing to learn!