My mind has been on prayer lately, and I’m trying to look at it as an out-of-body experience. In other words, I’m looking at my own prayer life and the prayer life of others from a 3rd person perspective…and questioning…WHY do we pray like we do?
Here are a few examples to clarify what I’m talking about:
- We mostly pray with our eyes closed
- We often bow our heads
- We sometimes hold our hands in a certain position
- We sometimes hold each other’s hands
- When a group prays for an individual, we often wrap our arms around one another and the prayer recipient
- We repeat “Lord, Father, God, Jesus, Abba, etc” over and over AND OVER again
NONE of these practices or prayer rituals are inherently bad. I don’t believe God judges us for our prayer technique as much as our motivation for prayer and the sincerity of our hearts.
Now, let me say most importantly here that NONE of these practices or prayer rituals are inherently bad. I don’t believe God judges us for our prayer technique as much as our motivation for prayer and the sincerity of our hearts.
God’s word gives us some suggestions, such as not going on and on with our words…when done so to impress others with our prayer mastery or how amazingly Christian we are. Matthew 6:6 says to go into our rooms, close the door and pray in private. Jesus gives some specific instructions in Matthew 6:9 when he starts off “This, then, is how you should pray:…” But this instruction is more in the form of the content or focus of your prayer life…not so much the technique or ritual/habits.
One suggestion I have is to talk to God like you would talk to another person
One suggestion I have is to talk to God like you would talk to another person…with obviously a lot more reverence and respect than we often give to our fellow humans. When talking with a friend named John, do you use his name over and over again, such as: “John, I pray to thee. John, please bless us for…., John…, John…, John…”? Then, why do we find ourselves saying God, Father, Lord, Jesus 20+ times in 2 minutes? God knows you are praying to Him!
My next suggestion is to do whatever you want to do with your eyes, hands, head, etc. There is no perfect positioning for prayer. In a perfect world, when we pray we should be able to shut out all distractions. If closing your eyes helps…great! Just don’t feel like this matters to God. Just don’t think that closing your eyes, bowing your head, or getting on your knees inherently increases the value or validity of the prayer. God hears you regardless.
My last suggestion here is to focus completely on God and who your prayer is directed at, such as the person in need of help, grace, blessings, etc. It’s not about closing our eyes, bowing our heads, or any other culturally learned prayer practices. If you do those things, it’s totally fine. Just remember that it is totally NOT about that. Prayer is about you…connecting with God…on behalf of yourself and others…and building a rich relationship with the Creator…your Lord and Savior.
the next time you pray…try shedding some of these traditional prayer practices and see how it impacts your prayer life.
So, the next time you pray (how about right now?)…try shedding some of these traditional prayer practices and see how it impacts your prayer life. And please do share your culture’s prayer practices and any comments below. It would be fascinating to hear from people in other parts of the world.
Larry Knight says
Hello, Brad! Very good article about prayer! You mentioned distractions; I try to be in an attitude of prayer, continuously. God will neither leave nor forsake us, so we don’t have to make a holy pilgrimage to a certain place, in order to meet with God, and be heard. Even so, perhaps a lot more of us should heed the exhortation, in Matthew, chapter 6, to “go into (our) inner room, and…shut the door,” ignoring all outside noise and requests, so that we can focus only on God.
Garth R Harding says
Praying the Bible Promises of God can be like a sword,50 caliber bullet,round of machine gun ammo,drone stealth missle to the great fathers/mothers of intercessory prayer wih Indian,Latino,African or Middle Eastern missionary yearly background investments even secular jobs as Christians in the Peace Corps and U.S.State Dept,and more an H-Bomb,Nuclear Bomb,to Black Hole Energy…that is when Jesus is praying for us. Praying the Word 24/7 in our daily time whether as dart prayers in less than a second or 1 minute prayers is comforting and relieves so much stress and gives clarity to reaching a decision. We are in the world but do not need to think in our minds and enjoy in our hearts like the world.
You could expand this to any of the ways Christians do this journey. Traditions can be good but not when form matters more than substance and the only value in doing something is we’ve done it that way before. It’s good asking why we do what we do, too often we act as if things are written in stone. Change can be good for the soul. With prayer, we learned to bow our heads and kneel to express humility, but you also learn that doing these things doesn’t necessarily humble you, that the position of your heart matters more than the position of the body. And closing your eyes to keep out distractions may just be admitting how spiritually unfocused we are. In maybe the most important prayer in the Bible, it says, “After saying all these things, Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son…” I hope others from other cultures do write in about how they practice this journey. And a small suggestion is if you can, go one Sunday and visit another church, preferably of a different ethnicity, and experience how many ways there are to follow Jesus and how awesome His body is.