Prayer is central to the Christian faith. Believers are told to “Pray without ceasing.“ (I Thessalonians 5:17).
Scripture also says that prayer brings His kingdom to earth. How does this happen? What does it look like?
It seems to me that learning to pray is a lot like learning a foreign language — communication involves listening, observing, speaking and acting. At times I have found myself doing more talking than listening when I pray. Have you ever seen a tourist who doesn’t speak the language of a country and keeps trying to get a point understood? The volume goes up, the talking increases and none of the effort leads to communication. That’s how I feel when my prayers are mostly about me talking without taking time to listen and learn God’s ways of communicating.
It can be difficult to grasp what it means to communicate with God, who is invisible. However, Scriptures say that Jesus was a perfect representative of God:
Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. John 5:19b
Learning to pray requires observing how Jesus acted and then following his example. Obedience is the way we demonstrate to God that we have heard from him:
If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. John 15:10
It’s so interesting that Jesus says “keep my commands”, not “Keep the Commandments”. Jesus didn’t just keep the “Ten Commandments” as if he had learned them from a book; he spoke them fluently through the love he showed as well as the words he spoke. He showed us, through his example, how prayer brings God’s kingdom to earth. That’s how we are to learn to pray as well.
Here’s an example: My father is elderly and hasn’t been able to hear any of the messages that our Pastor, Alex, has given. That doesn’t matter at all. He loves Alex and thinks the messages are amazing. He’s picking up on what Alex is saying without being able to hear words. He sees the Lord’s prayer being lived out:
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10.
Thinking of prayer as a way to hear from God and learning to speak His language, we need to learn to communicate in the way Jesus did, with our whole selves, not just our words. In this way we become more and more a part of a wonderful conversation that God invites us into.
Communicating in a foreign language begins with the basics of vocabulary and building simple sentences. Being a fluent speaker requires much more – learning the give and take of speaking and listening as well as the pronunciation, culture, and mannerisms of native speakers.
Think about the prayers and lives of believers who have made an impression on you. What has stood out to you about their words and their actions? Take a moment to thank God for the way he transforms us as we learn to communicate with Him in prayer. Ask Him to continue transforming you.