I first learned to pray when I was a child. I don’t know the contents of that prayer, the motivation behind it, or how it shaped my life.
I do know that I’m continuing to learn how to pray.
I know I’ll never master it. Similar to being in a relationship with anyone, the goal is not mastery. The goal is growth.
I’m learning prayer from one of my nephews.
He’s excited to pray before meals. If someone else prays first, he’ll typically follow it up with a prayer of his own. He’s a toddler right now, so his mastery of the English language and tongue is growing. When we sit around a dinner table together we all bow our heads, then he speaks three simple (powerful) words.
I was startled the first time I heard him pray this. I had to stifle my laughter because I frequently laugh at inappropriate times.
The more Kevin and I talk about the prayer though, the more I appreciate it.
If you think about it, it’s a simplified Lord’s Prayer.
“Our Father in Heaven (God)
Keep us alive with three square meals (Food)
You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes. (Amen)”
Matthew 6:7–13 (MSG)
Kevin and I work at a church. When we’re in a group setting with food, people will sometimes (always) ask one of us to pray for the meal. Occasionally we’ll break out a God. Food. Amen.
We’re typically greeted with stares of amazement. Not a “this is amazing” stare, but a “where’s the rest” kind of stare.
We’re accustomed to prayers that take more than three words to express. We’re used to prayers that invoke big words to describe how great God is.
Isn’t his name the greatest description we can speak?
We attempt eloquent words under the pretension that the better we speak the more likely God will hear us. Some of us view prayer as performance. Some of us have a fear of praying because we’re not as ‘holy’ as the people we’re sitting with.
We need to take this distorted view of prayer and replace it with a healthier understanding of it’s significance. Prayer is conversation. Prayer is relationship. This fear of ‘measuring up in prayer’ rooted deep within us has no place.
We need to return to praying as children. We need to strip away all of our insecurities displayed as complex and lengthy prayers. We need to return to approaching God with wonder, simplicity, and excitement.
Sometimes I pray that way because I know it will take people off guard.
Sometimes I pray that way because I hope to start a conversation about what ‘counts’ as prayer.
Sometimes I pray that way because I’m hungry, and I don’t want to put off eating for more than three words.
Mostly I pray that way because my mastery of the heavenly language and tongue is growing.
Would you continue to grow with us?
Ben Bulgrein and Kevin Brown are two millennials who write about their experiences while working at a church and discovering the ways they can positively impact their world. They are good friends and you can find their musings at the BMillennial blog.