One of the awesome things about the parish we attend is the prayer chain. Parishioners in need of a prayer submit a request to the church by email. The request is forwarded to everyone who’s asked to participate in the prayer chain. There aren’t many rules or guidelines, but there are dozens of reports of grateful parishioners who have felt the love and support of their neighbors, and the healing touch of God.
However, as a recipient of the prayer requests, I sometimes wonder if I’m “doing it right.” On a typical day, we may see three or four prayer requests, and my usual routine is to pause for a moment and say a silent prayer according to the request. Then I delete the email and move on. Is that enough prayer? Should I drop to my knees at that moment (not always practical)? Should I gather up all the requests for a special prayer time before bed that night? Are my prayers sincere enough to get through to God, or do they come off as distracted second-hand mumbling?
The Apostles asked Jesus how they should pray. In response, he gave us, “Our Father, who art in heaven…” He also reminded us to pray together (“Wherever two or more are gathered, I am in their midst…”), to pray often and to pray confidently (“If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you…”). Jesus set the example by praying frequently, sometimes at length, sometimes in just a few words. Sometimes in grateful conversation, and sometimes in painful anguish. Sound familiar?
I don’t consider myself a prayer expert. I think this is an area where I could use a lot of practice and perhaps more of my time should be focused on it. But I also have this feeling that God takes all the prayers we offer and none of them are wasted; no matter how brief, no matter how technically-incorrect. Like a Father admiring his children’s scrawling artwork, God appreciates the effort and the love that goes into our prayers, perhaps more than the words and technique.
God loves us and asks only that we love him in return, and that we talk to him in prayer.