The popular saying, “What you say is what you are” is backed up biblically in Luke 6:45. “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” This is never more true than with prayer. Listening to someone pray is like peeking into their soul.
I’ll never forget the first time I heard my grandmother pray. She was unaware that I was there. Even as a child I knew it was wrong to eavesdrop, but it was too beautiful not to listen. She had knelt. Her tone was so very reverent, her words so pure and simple. I realized that she was having a holy conversation with her Maker and I knew instantly that I wanted that same intimate relationship.
Relationship is reflected in the beginning of a prayer, much like it is in the opening of a letter. Many who acknowledge God’s sovereignty address Him as Lord. Others approach him as a child as their Heavenly Father, ready for Him to be their loving Abba. Some speak quite directly- starting with “Dear God.” Christ, part of the triune Godhead himself, modeled for us great respect in the Lord’s Prayer. “Our Father, who art in heaven. Hallowed be Thy Name” shows the great honor due to the Ruler of the universe.
The manner in which a prayer continues reveals more. Those who pray with lengthy phrases of eloquent words often end up sounding like slick politicians who lack content. Their words are often meant more for a public audience than a divine ear. Others approach God as Santa, rattling off their list of needs and desires—quite different than Jesus’ words of “Give us today our daily bread”. They replace “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, with a mentality more like “My kingdom come, My will be done.”
I have heard Christians pray apologetically, as if they are intruding on God’s time, not realizing our Creator’s intense desire to communicate with His creation. Feeling unworthy, they limit requests, as if God has a limited amount of blessings that must be portioned. They prioritize their needs as if His resources were finite, disregarding His infinite nature and lavish love. Not anticipating great answers to their prayers, their tone reveals doubt because their God is small in their own eyes. How opposite are the prayers of saints who know personally the great power of the Almighty, whose God is big!
Sadly others, sometimes myself included, continue nonchalantly, as if in a conversation with two close and equal friends. The relationship has lost sight of God’s sacred side. Familiarity should never negate His Holiness. In the Lord’s Prayer, even Christ in His perfection, modeled by example our need for redemption. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We need to ask His Holy Spirit to search our hearts for unrepentant sin.
Finally, the frequency of our prayers matters most. More importantly than how we approach, is that we do approach. It was never God’s intention to be a mere acquaintance; he desires intimacy. As with any relationship, the more quality time spent together the greater influence it has on shaping our lives and actions. Whatever stage we find ourselves currently in our own prayer life, we will make progress if we actively continue to seek His presence. As His Word promises in James 4:8a, “Draw near to me, and I will draw near to you.”