I’ve discovered, all relationships require work and effort, whether it's marriage, parenthood, even friendship. Even the relationships with our beloved pets take time and effort. And when I don't give them the attention and the affection they need or deserve, I just feel guilty and deflated.
Jesus doesn't want us to experience any of our relationships that way. With that being said, let me pivot the focus from our relationships with others toward our relationship with Him (Jesus), and with God our heavenly Father. One of the primary ways we interact with God is through prayer.
According to some polls, more people will pray this week than will exercise, drive a car, or even go to work. Nine out of ten people say they pray regularly, and three out of four people claim to pray every day. If you Google the word pray or prayer, you'll get over 100 million links in less than a second.
Now if you ask the average person about prayer, they will say it's important they pray often but that it's not very satisfying or they rarely experience the presence of God when they pray. I mean, as important as people say it is, they experience prayer more as a burden than as a delight. Maybe you're someone who struggles with prayer. If that's you, you're not alone.
My biggest personal challenge to a fulfilling prayer life is a lack of time, busyness. Meaningful prayer requires time...a lot of it. Where does it fit in in between work, family, the gym, and grocery runs to Harris Teeter? Of all the activities and parts of the Christian life, there is surely none which causes so much confusion, and raises so many problems, as the activity we call prayer.
I wonder maybe if that's why in Luke, chapter 11, the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, because you know in all of the Gospels, this is the only recorded request the disciples make, the only time they asked Jesus to teach them how to do anything. Isn't that interesting?
I mean, if I were following Jesus around at the time and watched him do some of the things he did, I'm not sure that's what I'd ask him to teach me. Jesus did some pretty incredible things. He was an amazing communicator. He was an incredible teacher. I'd ask him, teach me how to teach like you teach. Teach me how to speak like you speak. I mean, that would be pretty handy right now. He fed thousands of people with a couple of loaves of bread and a few pieces of fish. That would be a pretty useful skill to learn from Jesus. We could address hunger and famine with that skill. Teach me how to feed the masses.
Jesus also walked on water. I'm not sure how that could help others, but that would be a cool trick. Jesus healed people and raised people from the dead. Wouldn't you want to ask him to teach you how to do that, how to perform miracles, how to heal the hurting, how to save lives? But those aren't what they asked him. The only recorded request we have from the disciples in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John is of the disciples asking Jesus to teach them how to pray.
I think the reason they wanted to learn this from him is because of the kind of person Jesus was. He was the most radically loving person who ever lived. He ate with sinners and welcomed them. What he did more than anything else to live this kind of life, to be this kind of person, was he spent an awful lot of time in prayer.
In the middle of His teaching, as he is leading people on how to relate well, how to love well, how to show up as your best self, Jesus tells them to pray and to go to the Father in prayer. The main purpose of prayer is not to make life easier. It's not to get God to do what you want him to do but to simply know him, have a relationship with him and, in the process, maybe even become a little more like him.
This is the word of God, Amen