Identifying the People Who Didn’t Teach You How to Pray
What Does Prayer Look Like to You? – Part 1
I am getting ready to ask you a couple of questions which are intended to open up your thinking. With each section, I will begin with at least one question. These questions are intended to establish your starting location (where you are) so that we may identify a destination (where you desire to be) when it comes to taking your prayer to the next level. Hopefully, you’ve taken a look at our next-level prayer disclaimers and if you haven’t now would be a good time to do so. With that said and out of the way, let’s get right to it.
The Question: What Does “Normal” Prayer Look Like?
What does “normal” prayer look like to you?
At this time, we are not going to answer this question, but I want you to picture and think about what prayer looks like. You may even want to take a moment and jot down a few of your own thoughts. To help you, allow me to give you a few examples we’ve compiled from people just like you. Some will envision…
- praying at the dinner table or before a meal.
- heads bowed and eyes closed in their church service.
- a grandmother with her Bible in lap.
- a person with their hand in the proper prayer formation.
- a priest or a preacher standing before a group of people.
- an invocation (not even ready to go there) before a sporting event.
- children with their parents at the side or foot of their bed before bedtime.
- a group of people in a circle holding hands.
- a mother in her closet with a box of tissue set next to her.
Do you have a picture in mind? I want you to be able to see “normal” prayer.
Now for our next question.
Who taught you how to pray?
We’ve given you space to place your answers.
Who taught you how to pray? Where did you learn to pray?
After taking a poll from a diverse group of people (diverse in race, age, gender, and church affiliation), here’s the list of people who taught us how to pray. Mind you, there might be others, but for the majority, the average person, the following taught us how to pray. Maybe our first teachings and more than likely our only teachings.
- Momma and/or Daddy
Can you really say that your mother or your daddy taught you how to pray? In fact, most people have never heard both their parents pray. I can name family members, who’ve been in church for more than a decade and aren’t comfortable praying? Yet, this parent is the person who will teach their child how to pray.
- Grandma and/or Grandpa
I am extremely fortunate to have had grandmothers who prayed and as great as they were, they didn’t sit down and teach me how to pray. They sat down with me and my cousins and taught us a lot of wonderful things, especially lessons from the Bible. But not so much on “how to pray.” When I think of my grandfathers, I can count the number of times I’ve seen them in church, so how likely do you think they would be able to teach their grandchildren how to pray? This is going to get better, trust me.
- My church
This one is my favorite answer of them all. I learned to pray from my church. This answer is a good one. My church taught me how to pray. Most church-goers honestly believe they were taught to pray at their local church. Did they really? Was there a class or a special lesson given on this? A church teaches about prayer, but did they really sit down with you and show you how it’s done? This begs another question, if my church (or a church) teaches us how to pray, why then do most (51% or more) not know how and even more are not comfortable with praying at all?
- My Pastor
Trust me, most of us love our church pastor and we certainly would love to give our pastor the credit for teaching us how to pray. Think about it for a moment, did your pastor really teach you how to pray? And if he or she did, do you really know how? There is a huge gap here that indicates there’s a problem either with the teaching or that we’re not taught at all.
- A Prayer Meeting
I’ve been in prayer-meeting after prayer-meeting. I recall training our daughter how to pray and one of the first lessons I taught her was this…don’t look at the people in this prayer-meeting. She asked why? My response was they are probably here because they want to learn how to pray and don’t know how to themselves. Going through each of these scenarios opens us up to getting ready to go to the next level. In a prayer meeting, generally no one is teaching anyone how to pray, but rather they’re just praying.
- Religious Elders
Let this category represent the religious elders around us like deacons and such. I’ve found myself modeling my prayers after the deacons I’ve heard; not to single out the deacons. They were so theatrical for lack of a better term. They knew when to dial it up and they knew when to dial it down. This type of praying takes some practice and experience to get good at it. Not to go too far off the beaten path, no one sat down to teach me or anyone else I’ve polled how to pray like they prayed.
Did these people really teach you to pray? Did anyone sit down with you and go through the lessons? Was there a book used to give you prayer basics? Was there a class dedicated to prayer? When you think about the answer, you may discover that no one has really taught you how to pray, and those you saw pray weren’t taught either. What we concluded, after going through the entire list of possible places and people who qualify as ones to teach us to pray, is that if you learned to pray like most of us, then no one really taught you how to pray. If this is the case, wouldn’t that mean you might not know what you’re doing? If this is the case for us, that would also mean that was the case for them. If no one taught us, then it’s likely no one taught them.
We learned to pray in pieces.
It was concluded that we learned to pray in pieces. I’d like to say in parts or in part. As scripture reveals, we only know in parts and pieces anyway. Therefore what we know is “incomplete”. We get bits and pieces of how to pray from various places and most of it comes via observation.
Since this is the case, you can expect results like this.
- If you pray like momma who only prays in her prayer closet (isolated place), you will mimic the same. Because you really don’t know what it is she is doing in there and one is not permitted to be with her at this serious prayer time, we’re left to figure it out on our own.
- If you pray like dad, then you might only pray on Sunday, the one day you noticed that he prayed because you never witnessed him praying during the week.
- If you mimic the prayers you’ve heard at church, then your prayers will be heavily loaded with scripture verses which can be difficult if you know very few scriptures to match the specific prayer request or focus.
- If you like praying like your pastor, you might find that difficult because you’re not as eloquent as your pastor, although you’ve not considered that a pastor is a professional speaker.
- If you pray like the deacons in your church, you might be inclined to get down on one knee and require a hymn song in the background to accompany the prayer you memorized. Question: why on one knee? That’s another topic for another day. Memorized prayer, is that really a prayer you expect God to do anything with? That’s another topic for another day.
- If you pray like the elders of the church, you’ll find that they pray out of experiences you might not have had. Because they’re experienced in life, you might be intimidated to share yours.
We are preparing you to go to the next level. I have heard it said that we are taught to pray by “The Bible”. I like this idea, however, learning how to pray from “The Bible” implies something that’s rarely done. We’d have to read it. In fact, you’d have to read all of it and understand what prayer is to see it walked out in “The Bible. “There’s no chapter in the Bible that’s called “Prayer 101”, which we will get to later.
Let’s take a break here. This message is only intended to get you thinking about where you are in your learning about prayer. In next week’s message, we will build on this idea and provide some next-level insight into “what prayer looks like for you.” Stay with us, it will only get better from here.
Question: what does prayer look like for you?