By Samuel Lam
During my morning devotionals some time back, I came across this great piece by Rick Warren. He talked about being authentic in prayer and how we need to stop trying to strategize our prayers. It was shared on our Twitter page.
God created you, and so he wants you to be the real you. By being authentic when you speak to God, you worship him as you Creator.
For years I copied the prayers of other people. I noticed they used certain words and even a special tone of voice. I imitated all the religious cliches: “Lead, guide and direct us, O Lord.” “Bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies.” “Bless the gift and the giver.”
In New Testament times, prayers were wordy, meaningless rituals. There was no spontaneity, no genuineness. But Jesus says don’t get caught up in ritual prayer. You don’t have to use fancy language. You can’t impress God with fancy language, and you shouldn’t be trying to impress other people either.
I love to hear new Christians pray — no pious pomposity. They haven’t learned the cliches yet. They just say, “Hi, God. It’s me.” That’s how you make contact with God. You just talk with your Heavenly Father about what’s on your mind. Just pray your heart. Reveal yourself.
The timing was perfect since I had earlier written about our authenticity and comfort with God in terms of the clothes we wear.
I’ve always been fascinated by how people pray and why they pray a certain way. Growing up, I was told how to pray and at the time, it was OK. I didn’t know how to pray so I followed pre-written prayers or common sayings everyone has. The Lord’s Prayer was a good basis and it’s a great tool to have for someone who isn’t sure of what to say to God.
But over the years, as I developed my relationship with God, my prayers started becoming what they were intended to be: a conversation with God. Look no further than to Jesus himself. He didn’t cower in fear when talking to God. He talked to God just as God is to Him: His Father. God thanked, pleaded, questioned, conversed with God through prayer. It was a conversation. That’s something that gets lost a lot among people.
Like my post about clothing, we have to be comfortable with God. Warren says we don’t need to impress God, so why do we act and talk so different around Him?
I remember when I was in college during our fellowship meetings and my old roommate said that he was sick of people praying like God was an interrogating officer that just pulled someone over for a DUI. (Go to the 3:20 mark here if you don’t get what I mean.) They just start talking funny out of fear.
“How many times do these people say ‘Father God’ in their prayer?” he asked me. “I mean, do people talk to me and say my name after every sentence?”
It was something I thought too but never really noticed until then. As we did group prayers going forward, it seemed to me that was how so many people were praying. It didn’t seem authentic.
Dear Father God,
Thank you for this day, Father God. We like to lift up these people to you, Father God. We are so grateful that they are here today, Father God. I ask that you bless them, Father God. I ask that you guide them, Father God. Father God, let us be great disciples of you, Father God.
That was a typical prayer among the people I hung out with. I am not saying their prayers weren’t genuine, but it didn’t feel authentic. Imagine someone talking to me. They don’t say my name after every sentence like that prayer. Of course not. The people talking to me are comfortable around me. It’s just not a natural way to talk.
Hi Samuel Lam.
How are you today, Samuel Lam? Thank you for helping me move last week, Samuel Lam. I hope that it wasn’t too taxing on your body, Samuel Lam. You want to go catch a movie later, Samuel Lam? You like comedies, right, Samuel Lam? Samuel Lam, what’s your schedule like, Samuel Lam?
How come we talk to God like that? How come sometimes our conversations with God aren’t conversations? We’ve turned them into strategic statements out of fear. The right words need to be chosen when speaking to God yet we don’t realize that God knows our heart, so He can see through our carefully selected words.
Is this cultural? Maybe it is. Some cultures want a formal approach while some are OK with a relaxed one.
Prayer is the simplest and the most powerful thing we can do as Christians, but over the years, it appears that we may have complicated it. Prayer is our direct connection to God. We have that connection to God and we have that relationship that we can just talk to Him freely. Yet so many times, we treat it as if we’re not worthy. But Jesus opened that up that connection for us by coming to earth to save us. We are worthy. God wants us to talk and have that relationship. But how do we view our relationship with God?
I remember when I was in high school I would see this great T-shirt design. I laughed and found it great. Some people have told me that it’s offensive, that we shouldn’t treat Jesus as a “homeboy” or anything like that. I never understood why people were so against it. I’m pretty confident that Jesus wants to be our homeboy.
When I started to really take my faith seriously and grow in it, I told people that Jesus is my best friend. I felt comfortable with my relationship with Jesus that He eventually became my homeboy. My conversations with Him also changed. No longer did I need a structured, pre-planned set of words I had to recite. Instead, it was comfortable for me to talk to Him like I do with anyone. It was spontaneously wonderful.
If you ever hear me during prayers, you can hear me use phrases like “‘sup” or “hey” and “you know” like I normally talk. It’s kind of refreshing and free that I am comfortable enough to say that. He knows my heart, so I don’t need to mask my words of prayer with cliches. After all, He’s my homeboy. He gets me. We’re tight like that.
This is in no way any sign of disrespect to Jesus. In fact, I feel that it’s more respectful to view him as a homie. Jesus doesn’t want us to talk and treat Him as He’s some powerful cosmic killjoy overseer of our lives. Jesus wants us to talk to Him like He is our best friend — because He is.
Jesus once told us to have faith like children. That extends to prayer also. Listening to children pray is wonderful because they don’t have the cliches and pre-determined words. They just speak what’s on their mind and in their heart. He wants that. Somewhere along the line, we lost our way and over-complicated something that Jesus told us was so simple. Our prayers and viewpoints of Jesus aren’t as simple as it should be.
I’m not saying that all our prayers have to begin with “Hey God, how’s it hanging?” or anything of that nature. And this isn’t me pointing the finger at people who pray differently than me. I just think we, myself included, can be more authentic around our Lord.
Maybe instead of saying “Father God” 50 times in one prayer, maybe we could just say “Wassup God?” every now and then. After all, we are tight with Jesus like that.
Samuel Lam: Samuel is a Bay Area native living in Southern California working in sports media. He blogs on many topics, including sports, music, movies, travel and especially faith. Sam also runs his own personal sports blog on his free time. Check him out at:Green Eggs and Lam & But At The End Of The Day.