Prayers That Don’t Work
Prayer, it is the most well-known tool in our spiritual tool box, and sometimes the least understood.
This leads many Christians to a feeling of guilt for not praying enough, or admitting they don’t know if they
are using the right words to pray. The disciples must have felt the same way when they said to Jesus in
Luke 11:1, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Jesus then in turn taught them the model prayer, or the Lord’s prayer
that is so familiar to all of us. So, apart from praying the Lord’s prayer, how else can we pray? In the Jewish prayer traditions, the Shema was recited in their daily set prayers. Each morning and evening, Jews
would pray the Shema, which gets its name from the first Hebrew word in the prayer which means listen.
The Shema is made up from the scripture passages of Deuteronomy 6:4-5, 11:13-21, and Numbers 15:37-
41. To pray the Shema, one would recite “Listen, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall
love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these
words that I am commanding you today in your heart.” When asked about the greatest commandment,
Jesus in Matthew 22 responded with the Shema and adding to love your neighbor as yourself. So, we can
pray the Lord’s prayer and the Shema, but how else can we pray? Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, instructs us
to “pray continually.” It would be a lot to go around all day reciting only these two prayers, Paul was probably pointing us to a more personal conversation with God, as we would talk with a friend. We could continually talk to God throughout the day, giving thanks for all the joyful moments, asking God to help us during any difficult times, and simply being in constant communion with God would be the goal. But we get
busy, and forget or simply don’t make time to pray. Perhaps we can schedule some set prayer times each
day for the month of October, apart from our meal and bedtime prayers. It could be a set time to pray the
Lord’s prayer, the Shema, or whatever is on your heart. May we be intentional to use more the tool of prayer so we can grow closer to God and have a stronger relationship with Jesus.
What do our prayers say about our faith? Over the next several weeks, we
will look at texts from the Gospel of Luke that address some fundamental
aspect of prayer, in hopes we can speak to God more boldly and honestly.
10/2— “The Prayer for Enough Faith to Have No Need for Faith” – Luke 17:5-10
10/9— “The Prayer That You Didn’t Pray” – Luke 17:11-19
10/16— “The Prayer That Quits” -Luke 18:1-8
10/23— “The Prayer of Comparison” – Luke 18:9-14