Here's what I know. Most everything I've ever heard about prayer is true. It is powerful and it is important and God desires it of us and it is transformational and sanctifying. So maybe the better question isn't "why pray?" Maybe the better question is "how do I pray?" And suddenly the disciples make a lot more sense to me. Maybe I'm late to the party here, but whenever I read about the Lord's Prayer and the disciples asking Jesus to teach them how to pray, I always read it as them asking for some sort of secret. Like they wanted to know the way to unlock some sort of power. I heard "Give us the magic words, Jesus!" But honestly, maybe they were just like me. Maybe they really just wanted to know... This talking to the God of the universe thing makes my mind get all twisted and knotted up. I don't get it. Teach me how. Teach me how to approach God as my Father, as my Lord, as the Ultimate Authority on the direction of my life, and as the Lover of my Soul, and my Friend, and my Healer, and my Provider. Teach me how I'm supposed to bring my puny little words up to such a massively complex and beautiful God!
And that has been my cry for months. As I have walked through the unfolding of a beautiful new relationship and the mess of broken ones. As I watched a sweet friend battle cancer for the second time and sat astounded by her faith. As I left comfort for a new adventure. All this time it has been playing constantly in the back of my mind - Lord, teach me how to pray.
I don't really have any secrets. I'm no theologian, though I've heard my fair share of sermons on The Lord's Prayer. But I will share this. As I have used the word "open" as the lens through which I view my life this year, I have learned that prayer is, at its simplest, an opening of the heart to God. It is taking all the thoughts and worries and concerns and fears and joys and gifts and celebrations and instead of holding them tightly in my hands or locking them in the vault of my mind, opening them up and showing them to God. Prayer is a shared attention with God. If I have a problem and no solution, I can open my hands and show it to God. If I have a deep desire for the way I want that problem to be solved, I can show Him that too. If I just want to sit and cry, I can do that, but I do it with God. Every thought that I have can be laid bare before Him. That is prayer. It is a conscious decision to share my life with God, much like I make a conscious decision to share my life with the man I'll marry (and if marriage is a metaphor for the church's relationship with God, this is as it should be). Prayer is letting God in and savoring that intimacy of nothing hidden and never carrying anything alone. It is a beautiful mystery.