When You Pray
But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. Matthew 6:6
In this manner, therefore, pray: Matthew 6:9a
Many children are taught to pray by their parents, usually at mealtime or before bed. I learned my bedtime prayer from my mother who taught me to say, with head bowed, eyes closed and hands folded:
Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
God bless Mommy and Daddy (and all family members by name in order of birth as best I could recall), then, add anything I was curious or worried about, and close with,
It stuck, too, as I prayed that each night through some pretty rough years.
Then, as we grow up we observe others praying, in church or at a family gathering. We can gather from these examples that this is what it means to pray and these are the things for which it is appropriate to pray. Instead of kneeling quietly by our bed and speaking to God with folded hands and closed eyes, these prayers seem composed for the sake of those in attendance rather than, or in addition to, the One being spoken to. From these prayers, we can learn that our out-loud prayers are to make others feel good. A different message than the intercession and supplication taught at our bedside.
Jesus saw the paradox and sees it in us as we struggle to know how to pray, so He invites us to follow His lead. He says, basically, you were on the right track as a child, prayer is to be humble, private, simple and honest. Even when your burden is heavy and you can’t find the right words, it’s okay, a humble heart will communicate with your heavenly Father just as clearly, or more so, than words and language.