Praying Like You Saw It
What Does Prayer Look Like to You? Part 2
Did the people in The Bible pray?
This next question is intended to help you take your thoughts on “what prayer looks like for you” to “what prayer can look like for you.” In other words, how do we take our general concept of prayer to the next level? Remember this is “Next-Level Prayer.”
Did Adam pray? What about Cain?
Do you even know what it is to pray? The most common (51% or more) response is that prayer is talking to God. If this is the case, has anyone ever given you insight into the prayers of these major players in the Bible? Has it ever been discussed whether or not they prayed? These questions prompted me to think about Cain.
Cain, yes the one who killed his brother Abel, was found in a conversation with God. He spoke with God. You know the story; everyone knows of this story. Cain killed his brother Abel; but what you might not know is that Cain made a request to God. He offered a prayer to God about his punishment. Cain says to God that because of the punishment placed on him, that he’s become a wanted man and anyone who finds him would attempt to kill him. Cain was asking God for help from this predicament and God honored his request. In response, God set it up that the person who kills Cain would receive a seven times greater punishment than that of Cain. The point is Cain spoke with God. And if talking to God is prayer, that would mean Cain qualified as one who prayed.
If prayer is an important action then every Christian believer should perform it, wouldn’t you agree? Why then is there very little teaching on it? Unfortunately, we’ve made prayer seem like a chore, drudgery, and a mundane exercise. As a result most don’t have a connection or a relationship with God in which they speak with Him. Even in his crime, Cain at least had a relationship and connection with God. Even though he was in trouble, he still was able to communicate with God.
Pray-er See, Pray-er Do
We’ve handed down throughout time that a person who’s done wrong doesn’t qualify to communicate with God. Or in my case, I was made to believe that when you’re in the midst of your wrong, you can’t call on God; He’s off limits or unable to hear your request.
I am sure you’ve heard that old saying, “monkey see, monkey do.” Wikipedia notes that “this saying refers to the learning of a process without an understanding of why it works” or even how it works. To illustrate, I’d like to share a story. This story is actually an experiment conducted using five monkeys. I first heard about the five monkey experiment from John C. Maxwell and later found it in various places on the internet.
The story goes like this. An experiment was conducted on five monkeys who were all placed in the same cage. In the cage with the monkeys was a bunch of bananas hanging from a string. Leading up to the bananas was a ladder for the monkeys to climb. One by one the monkeys would attempt to reach the dangling bananas only to be sprayed with freezing cold water for several minutes. Each time a monkey decided to try to reach the bananas, all five monkeys were again sprayed with the freezing cold water. After only a few tries by the monkeys, the hose used to spray the monkeys was then put away. Not knowing that the threat of freezing cold water no longer exists, when one of the monkeys made an attempt for the bananas the other four would attack him to prevent a repeat of being doused with freezing water.
The experiment gets better, one by one a new monkey replaces one of the original monkeys who’d experienced the freezing water. As the experiment continued and until all the original monkeys were replaced, the new monkeys continued the behavior set before them although they had not once experienced or seen anyone who had experienced being sprayed by cold water. All they knew was not to allow anyone to climb the ladder to retrieve the bananas.
I like this experiment because it’s the perfect illustration for what happens to people as it relates to prayer.
What Pamela and I have discovered is that most (51% or better) believe they know how to pray and believe they do pray just because they saw someone else perform an act that they called prayer. When faced with the question who taught you how to pray, the truth is we observed others in an act they called prayer. In the same way the monkeys held on to the behavior of not retrieving the bananas, we’ve held on to practices that we call prayer that might not be prayer at all. The simple reason is in most cases we have no idea what prayer is because those before us didn’t either.
In order for us to build upon, rebuild, and take prayer to the next level, we must open the door to some truths that have not been handed down because like those monkeys, we’ve accepted some things that don’t apply. What does prayer look like for you? More than likely it looks the same as what it looks like to the ones whom you believe taught you to pray. I must say this often, this message is not intended to negate what you’ve been taught or think you’ve been taught. Even in the illustration with the monkeys they used what they had observed to shape their thinking; in the same way, we will use what we’ve observed from those who we’ve accredited to teaching us how to pray. With that said, we’re going to build upon it so that we can take one of the most important spiritual practices we have to the next level. We call this “next-level” prayer.
Question: can you think of a prayer habit that you’re holding on to that can be expanded upon?
Reference #1: Genesis 4:8-15 NLT, Bible.com, accessed June 8, 2021, https://www.bible.com/bible/116/GEN.4.8-15.NLT
Maxwell, John C. “Building A Team Environment (Part2).” The John Maxwell Company. Accessed June 11, 2021. https://johnmaxwellleadershippodcast.com/episodes/john-maxwell-building-a-team-environment
Unknown. “The Five Monkeys Experiment & Its Lessons for Your Organization.” ProServeIT. Accessed June 11, 2021. https://www.proserveit.com/blog/five-monkeys-experiment-lessons
All Scripture references used by permission, see our Scripture copyrights.