Teach Us to Pray
By Dr. Ria E. Baker, Associate Professor of Counselor Education; Certificate in Christian Spirituality, Houston Graduate School of Theology No matter how long one has been in the faith, one never seems to arrive when it comes to prayer. Even the disciples who had been with Jesus and had seen his daily actions, asked Jesus to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1). Spiritual thinkers across the centuries have pondered the practice of prayer and share their insights:
“To pray is to change. Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us.…The closer we come to the heartbeat of God the more we see our need and the more we desire to be conformed to Christ” (Foster, 1998). In examination of those in the Scriptures who have walked with God, it is evident that prayer was the most important aspect of their spiritual life (Foster, 1998). It is seen in the life of Christ, who rose early and went to lonely places to pray (Mk 1:35); in the life of David, especially throughout out his writings in the Psalms; in Paul, as he writes that we are “co-laborers with God” and working with God to determine the outcome of events (1 Cor 3:9); and in Moses, who prayed boldly because he believed that prayer could even change God’s mind (Ex 32:14). These are merely a few examples from the Scriptures that indicate the great importance of engaging in bold prayer as believers and the great responsibility that lies in the hands of whose who can change the world by prayer (Foster, 1998).
Agnes Sanford, a spiritual leader and author, is described as one who was known for her approach to healing through prayer in an uncomplicated manner, with confidence in God’s loving power to heal. According to Sanford, one needs to pray in faith in a disciplined manner with a child-like spirit. The description of humility in the beatitudes, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth,” best describes this child-like stance. The believer is encouraged with meekness to have an unshakable faith in the laws of nature, to combine that with humility to learn about the laws of nature, and to conform to the laws of nature. In the same way of meekness, one must learn to conform to God’s laws of faith and love. Thus, instead of focusing on the presenting problem in prayer, one, in faith, must focus on the outcome of change and healing.
The Cloud of Unknowing
The author, an unknown contemplative from the fourteenth-century, of The Cloud of Unknowing writes that as one starts to pray, one should pray as if one will die at the end of the prayer. This brings about a blind reliance on God’s will, not having any certainty beyond this for a moment. The shortness of prayer is also encouraged. Praying with one syllable, such as Lord, Father, or Jesus, is encouraged and that to cry out with such a little syllable from the height, depth, length, and breadth of its spirit would always be heard and helped by God in the very vehemence of its shriek (Foster & Griffin, 2000).
Louise Hay (1984), a metaphysical lecturer and teacher, assists thousands of people in discovering and using the full potential of their own creative powers in meditation and prayer to promote personal growth and self-healing. This requires having great faith in God’s power and maintaining a faithful and positive mindset. According to Hay, through prayer and meditation, one may recognize the attitudes and sins that can lead to illness and through trust and surrender to God and his power, one finds healing for mental and physical illnesses.
God has certainly given us everything we need for life and godliness, and prayer is one of those wondrous blessings. Keep learning how to pray!
“Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours" (Mk 11:24).