really praying

I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.

Psalm 77

Lord, they came to you in their distress;
when you disciplined them,
they could barely whisper a prayer.

Isaiah 26

[Jesus] said to them, “When you pray, say:

hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.’”

Luke 11

There can be value in saying prayers, especially when we practice what our Lord taught us so that we recite together and alone what is called “the Lord’s Prayer,” or the “Our Father” prayer. But if there’s no sincerity, saying prayers amounts to nothing more than mouthing words. The Lord looks at the heart.

There are times when we want to pray, but barely can. Those might be times of the Lord’s loving hand of discipline upon us, as the above passage says (Isaiah 26). But it’s a part of the human condition to be weak. We are weak and we cast ourselves on the grace and mercy of God. The Isaiah passage is encouraging in intimating that no matter how we’ve strayed, we can come to God. It may require much effort on our part, although prayer normally takes some effort. We may feel it is useless, that there’s a barrier between us and God. But it is always good for us to lift our voices to him. To do so when our hearts are torn or broken, or even seemingly distant from God for that matter.

Sometimes we are in more or less desperate straits. We cry to God over someone else’s plight, or over something we’re concerned about in our own life. And hopefully we keep bringing petitions to God for those in need. This is good, because inherently we are not people of prayer, people dependent on God. Life can draw us into that prayer which is an expression of faith, drawing us closer to God, hopefully into a deeper relationship with him.

Scripture is not superficial anywhere, very much attuned to life. Prayers are as human as they may be caught up into the divine. Sometimes blood, sweat and tears. Made holy and received by God through Jesus Christ.


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