Learning To Pray

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. – Romans 8:28

Good thing isn’t it?

I find prayer difficult.

Oh we like to think it’s easy. Hey, just act like you are talking to your best friend on the phone. Or, imagine a kindly old man on a porch who knows the secret of listening. In other words, he makes good eye contact and feigns interest and understanding. Less reverent people have actually told me to imagine talking to a beloved dog or cat.

On the other side, there’s those who advice praying to the God who holds the purse strings on the universe. They might word it differently by talking about the God of power and might or the God that liberates or the God with angelic armies (or hosts), and all their advice is made subtly worse by their position in life (some of them are celebrities and others not much different than ourselves or worse off) and by the inherent truth in their statements. The Psalmist declares that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. Jesus came to deliver the poor and down trodden and deliver us from slavery to sin and death.

So, they’re all right. Those that say you can talk to God easily and those that tell us that we can pray to the God who can do anything for us. So, how does this verse make sense? What do we really need to learn about in our prayers? Does Paul feel that the Spirit is praying for him because as cool as he is he still needs help in prayer?

Doesn’t make much difference to me.

In my head I know that this verse tells us all to find our true happiness in God, but it doesn’t make prayer any easier.

Just consider the different aspects of prayer that you can take on. There are differences of body position, hand position, leg position or any other part of your body. There are differences of location. Where are you? In your house? In the garden? At Church? In a cathedral? In a closet? In the Kitchen? On a run? There are differences of levels of activity. You can wait all day for your heart rate to go down. You can go for a run or hide in a closet. There are differences of emotional state or mental state. Are you distracted or are you focused?

You could simplify the list. Prayer takes into account mental state, emotional state, physical state, social state, and physical location. It is in general an act of communication with the almighty God. So, it also takes into account the words we use. Most of us aren’t even taught how to pray, we learn from imitation, but most of us didn’t grow up seeing prayers or people praying except at meals and at church (or the ones begging before a test). Most of us even have the embarrassment in us that we’ve seen in all of those public prayers we’ve seen over meals.

Thankfully, we are all learning to pray. We don’t need to be embarrassed.  Thankfully, we have a Spirit who prays for us. I wouldn’t trade that for the ability to say clever words, and I’ll just keep up learning to pray from scripture and Wesley, St. Francis, Augustine, and Aquinas and anyone else that I encounter alongside that scripture.


About Sean Smith

Husband, Father, Pastor, Swimmer, Writer, Reader, and attempted Adventurer!
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