Reflections on Chapter 11 of Spiritual Leadership by Oswald Sanders.
Prayer. The books on prayer would fill large libraries. The books on cliches about prayer would fill libraries a bit smaller. And all I have in mind is books on the matter of Christian prayer. Who knows how many other volumes have been written regarding prayer in other religions?
This concept of prayer is prevalent across the religious spectrum. There is a common thread through – and in some regard connecting – humanity. It’s the desire to communicate, even commune, with the divine. We want to communicate; we want to express our thoughts, feelings and desires to that which we feel is higher than us. We want to commune; we want more than simply one-way traffic, we want to hear from the realm of the spirit, we want a sharing between the two realms.
I know that is too broad of terms for some, but I implore you to think of it broadly, at least for a moment.
Now arises the age-old question. If this such an important facet to such large swathes of humanity why do so many – even we Christians, even we leaders, even me – find prayer difficult at times? The short, cheap answer is, “We don’t know.” The long, expensive answer is, “That’s why there are so many books.”
Among Christians some seem assert that real prayer must be loud, produce profuse perspiration and leave you with a hoarse voice. Others maintain that prayer ought to be as quiet as a gentle evening breeze and it is even better when offered silently. One persuasion says the key is to read from or recite from an established book of prayers. Another group frowns on or even criticizes the repeating of any particular word with in a two to three sentence framework. Some stress that prayer is so intensely private that only a select few should lead in public intercessions. Others badger everyone present to be just as vocal as they are. Do you see a pattern developing here?
No wonder they asked Him. They should have known. One would think they had been around it enough. One would guess that they had observed their elders do it; that their parents had coached them; that somewhere along the line a teacher gave them instruction. But, they asked Him, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). They even mentioned that John the Baptist taught his pupils to pray.
I think their question was twofold. They knew that He prayed (and in a variety of fashions). So, one aspect of their request I think was, Lord impress on both our hearts and minds the importance of prayer; not merely a rigid duty, but grander than that, a righteous delight. Maybe the why? Secondly, teach us the pattern of content, the priority of concepts. Maybe the how?
With all that prayer is made up to be, with all that if could be, with that it should be, with all that it would be … maybe that’s why at times we find it a bit perplexing, a bit daunting. Maybe that is all the more reason for us to say, as The Twelve did, “Lord, teach us to pray”
P.S. If we are going to lead, we are going to need lessons on prayer and we are going to need to pray.