"Praying Like Real People"

If we are people who believe in God, then we have a human responsibility, it seems to me, to figure out who we are in relationship to God.  If we believe what the Bible tells us that God created the world (however it happened—I don’t think we have to understand Genesis 1-2 as a literal, eyewitness account) and that in one way or another God created us, then we are inhabiting a world that WE did not create, and our “position” in that world, and to the creator of that world, is part of what we need to think about. 

It is easy just to ignore this.  Probably most of us experience living in this world without God getting too intrusive—indeed, God seems to grant us the freedom to pretty much do what we want without “smiting” us.  Of course, there are realities—gravity being one of them, and the mostly inevitable results of not respecting our human bodies, the way that they work, and what is good for them.  Climate change seems to be another way of not respecting the planet, the way it works, and what is good for it.  So actions have consequences—but within those realities, God doesn’t seem to intervene all that much.

And yet God did intervene by coming as Jesus.  The proclamation of the Christian faith is that Jesus is God come in human form—the “Word became flesh” as the Gospel of John states it.  And this human manifestation of God conveys to us how it is we ought to relate to God, who created everything, including us.

And how is that?  Are we to understand God as “way up there” above it all, with no concerns about what happens to us, and therefore we’d be nuisances if we approached God?  Are we to understand God, with the awesome power to create EVERYTHIING, as outrageously scary and unapproachable for that reason?  Are we to consider ourselves so insignificant that God wouldn’t want to be bothered—after all, keeping the earth spinning on its axis is a much bigger and more important thing than anything we’d be concerned about in our own lives. Are we to figure that God doesn’t care about if we’re happy, or sad, or hungry, or how we get along with the other “lowly” humans?

The disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray in this passage from Luke’s Gospel. A slightly different version of his answer appears in Matthew’s Gospel, in a very different context.  This simple, direct prayer answers the question of how we should relate to God, and how we should relate to others.  And while respecting God as God is certainly part of it, and acknowledging the way God wants us to live “on earth as it is in heaven” and that we should “forgive everyone indebted to us” should be our approach to the other people who are here, one of the biggest takeaways is how we should relate directly with God.

Jesus doesn’t say it right out, but what he seems to point out is that we need to recognize God as very approachable—just as approachable as a good friend.  Ask for the food that is needed. Ask to be forgiven.  This succinct prayer doesn’t even include “please” and “thank you”.  Talk with God straightforwardly.  Don’t feel the need to “fancy it up”.  And don’t be afraid to just tell God directly.

Because God DOES care.  We are not insignificant in the midst of the huge creation.  We are not ignored, or under the radar, or of no value.  We are the ones whom God loves enough to enter the world as one of us in order to understand better what we go through.  God GETS that we need these things.

So pray.  Pray like this. Talk with God.  The more we talk with God, the better we’ll know God, and the more we’ll be assured that we indeed DO matter—even in the “big picture”.

Luke 11:1-13

1He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ 2He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
   Your kingdom come. 
3   Give us each day our daily bread. 
4   And forgive us our sins,
     for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
   And do not bring us to the time of trial.’

5 And he said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.” 7 And he answers from within, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.” 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

9 ‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’