There are no magic words for prayer. There is no secret formula to prayer. Just talk; just listen. Just like you would in any other conversation.
Jesus gives us a simple understanding for prayer in Matthew 7:7-8:
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Prayer is meant to be simple.
-1- Just ask; just receive.
Prayer is unpretentious. God knows what you need, He knows what you are feeling, and He is on your side. Just ask Him for what you need; look attentively for His response; then humbly and gratefully receive what He gives.
When you are addressing the Omniscient, you don’t have to be coy or manipulative or verbose. You don’t have to layer on the pleasantries and formalities before getting around to your ultimate request. Just go straight to the bottom line with Him. He can handle it. And He appreciates your directness and honesty (James 4:2; Matthew 7:9-10).
When you are addressing the High Priest who has personally experienced your every weakness, you don’t have to pretend to be strong or like you have it all together. Drop the facade. You can just fall apart before God. Be real. Be weak. He prefers that to feigned strength (Hebrews 4:15).
When you are addressing the Perfect Judge who has already taken upon Himself the punishment that was due to you, you don’t have to build your case or defend your “rights” before Him. He is your Advocate! God is for you! He already has your best interests in mind. You don’t have to crawl to Him in terror, as before a cruel and ruthless judge. Because of Christ’s faithfulness, you can approach Him boldly and with confidence, assured of His glad welcome (Ephesians 3:12, Colossians 1:22).
-2- Just seek; just find.
Every square inch of my house or office will be scoured — 10 times if need be! Every step will be retraced again and again until the missing items are located!
I wish I sought God with such vigor and tenacity.
And oh!, what joy and relief when the keys or cell phone is found! No other feeling quite compares to that of a successful search-and-rescue mission.
-3- Just knock; just wait.
This part of Jesus’ instructions on prayer is perhaps the most intriguing to me, and the most difficult to master in its simplicity.
When I call someone on the phone, if they haven’t answered by the third ring, I’m hanging up. When I knock on someone’s door, they’ve got about 6 seconds to answer, or I’m walking away. It’s embarrassing how impatient I am when I want someone’s attention! If I don’t get it immediately, I’m like, “well fine then! just forget it!”
Jesus taught a parable in Luke 18:1-8 from which I desperately need to learn. It opens with these words:
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and never give up.
The story Jesus went on to tell them was about an old widow who had been taken advantage of and wronged. The local judge was heartless and couldn’t care less about the old woman’s plight. Yet she continued to plea with him for justice – again and again and again. She never gave up on asking him to do that which she knew he was able to do to make things right.
He finally gave in, mainly just to get her off his back! In sharp contrast to this “unjust judge”, Jesus went on to conclude,
Will not God [who is truly just] bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will He keep putting them off? I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly.
The example of the persistent widow is this: just knock and wait. If no answer comes, knock again, and wait some more. And let your waiting be an expectant waiting, trusting in the eventual response, not of an unjust judge who can’t wait to get you off his case, but a Perfect and Gracious Judge, whose judgments are right and whose timing is perfect.
I have more to say about keeping prayer simple, but to say more now would be to make it more complex! So I’ll save it for a future post on the beautiful friendship between prayer and simplicity…
Oh! And this has nothing to do with anything, but I’ve always thought it was cool that the first letters in the three words “Ask, Seek, Knock” spell out the word “ASK” again!