“Prayer: Dare to be Honest with God!”

A ninety-something year old Mr. Sachs turned to me after a memorial service and said, “There are three stages in life … Youth … Middle Age and ‘You are really looking good!”

Turn to someone and say, “You are really looking good!”

One Friday in seminary, we attended what we thought was one of the more important classes on preaching. The professor always “looking good!” … wearing Countess Mara silk ties, with the embroidered CM. I was determined to own a Countess Mara tie! Which I did and pictured below!

On that particular Friday in seminary a fellow student asked a question that has haunted me to this day, “Do you know what day it is?” He waited as we stared blankly at him. He broke our silence like a trumpet with, “It’s Good Friday!” The day we remember the crucifixion of our Lord, Jesus Christ. As we were going through the motions , “looking good,” and learning about God’s work but empty of the life changing presence of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ!

In today’s Bible passage, Jesus did not teach his disciples about prayer. He taught them to pray … as part of being connected with God. This was in response to the disciple’s request:

Luke 11:1-4 (NKJV)
1  Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”
2  So He said to them, “When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.
3  Give us day by day our daily bread.
4  And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.”

It dawned on me that the purpose for the Lord  Jesus in giving us the Lord’s Prayer was to help us to feel comfortable with prayer. It’s not unusual for people to feel uncomfortable with prayer, especially in groups or prayer circles.

We have all been at one time or another at a family gathering, or at a Bible study. And the question comes up:  Who would like to lead us in prayer?  And immediately, eyes glaze over, stare at plates, heads turn the other way. What would I say.  We may think back to the day we mumbled and stumbled  our way through the last prayer. It’s easy to become discouraged in prayer, especially after a few faltering steps.

Likewise, the disciples said: “Lord, teach us to pray, like John taught his disciples.”

In other words:  “Lord, what we need is a model, a pattern, a guide. Why, once we have that we can build our own prayers.”

The first principle of prayer is so obvious … we have literally had to climb over it on all fours to get around it and not notice it.


Here in Luke the greatest prayer of all time was written out –

Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.

Dr. G. Ernest Thomas was an experienced teacher of prayer to professional people.  Along the way he saw that many of them had never prayed aloud in group before, even though they might have spoken in public to large crowds. 

Dr. Thomas encouraged growth in prayer in two ways.  First, he always had prayer books available on his table.  He would tell persons if you don’t feel like making up a prayer on the spot, look through one of these books until you find a prayer that communicates what you want to say.  Then during your turn, read it to us.

That sounds interesting. Begin a prayer notebook and start collecting prayers.  Prayers in newspaper, prayers in church bulletin, prayers in devotional books, dinner prayers, healing prayers, morning prayers, evening prayers, all around prayers.  Prayers for pets.  Children’s prayers.

When you go to Cokesbury Christian books, ask for books on prayers.

Cut them out and paste them into your prayer scrap book.  If you find yourself going to a family reunion or a Bible study … you may share a prayer that can be a real meaningful event.

You might consider  yourself a prayer reporter. My late friend and saint, Rev. Dr. Larry Hinshaw carried around a reporter’s notebook. Whatever size you carry, let it be a holy book for you. One of John Wesley’s earliest devotional habits was “collecting prayers.”  You can call this stamp collecting.  Collecting God’s stamp of blessing in your life through prayer.

Wesley was right:  The best way to learn to pray is to examine the prayers of others.  We discover content of prayer … spirit of prayer … and the vocabulary of prayer.

Another idea is to clip a photograph or a print that is inspiring to you.  Meditate on the image until a prayer is formed in your heart.   I was cleaning off my desk one day when, I tried to throw out an extra copy of the Easter bulletin, showing the Lord Jesus coming out of the tomb, worshiped by angels.  The stone was knocked flat.  I tried to throw that bulletin away five times. Once I put the bulletin in the garbage … but then dug it out … and set it over the phone.  The image of our Savior shouted to me:  This is what it’s all about!   This is why I am in my office!  This is why we are Christians!  This is it!  He is risen!

I’m going to put that print in my prayer book!

Lyndon Johnson’s press secretary, Bill Moyers, was saying grace at a staff lunch, and the President shouted, “Speak up, Bill! I can’t hear a thing!” Moyers quietly replied, “I wasn’t addressing you, Mr. President.” It is good to remind ourselves that when we pray, we talk to God.

Below is an example of a blank lined and bound book which you can purchase to start your own prayer book.

A prayer journal is a way for you to take stock of where you are spiritually and do an honest accounting before God. When I was thirty-nine and in my third pastorate, my marriage fell apart. During the time of separation, I lived in an 18 foot trailer for several weeks while pastoring a United Methodist Church. In my trailer twenty-two years ago, I took stock of my life in an honest accounting before God. It was the most difficult time of my ministry. Since then God has restored my life with joy, a new work and ministry, a beautiful new wife and extended family and blessings I could not have imagined, but hoped for, twenty-two years ago.

Dare to be honest with God!

Life in “Desert Sands RV Park was a mix between a living at a military base and a rest stop. One day a new 4 x 4 pulling a Holiday Rambler set up with retirees pulling their house on wheels. The next day a homemade camper appeared. A boy pulled his sister, both age 10 or under, away from the only pay phone. “But, ” she sobbed, “she’s not my Mommy …” The boy said, “She is now ! …” as he tugged her arm, dragging her heels on the driveway toward their camper. I learned that the pay phone was the last connection some as they lived on the edge of their world. So, I left my church card at the phone. Ron and Karen F_ , members of my congregation, upon hearing my story and the problems of the park residents helped set up a “Park Angel” ministry to those who needed help. I learned Ron and Karen lived at Desert Sands themselves for 11 years. {Karen has since passed away. Ron remarried her sister and serves as Lay Leader of a church in Cottonwood, AZ.} I remember one person calling the church for assistance. Moments later I stepped out of my trailer, which sat across from the phone, and said, “Hello, I’m the pastor. You called for help?” I don’t think they every figured out the rapid response.

Overnight or Forever

The park printed on its entrance sign, “Desert Sands RV Park – Overnight or Forever.” You have a choice today to begin an honest conversation with God. This will make the difference between staying overnight in your addiction, conflicts and grief … or staying forever. Recovery begins with honesty – with yourself, others and with God. Perhaps today, you feel numb and shock from events in your life. Consider beginning a prayer journal and beginning with an honest accounting before God. This practice helps you grieve your loss while taking stock of what you have to work with. I promise you that you look back and see how God protected and guided you through your most difficult hours. Right now, you may really “Look Good” but inside you feel spiritually isolated, alone and empty. Remember, prayer begins with honest conversation with God.

Pastor Jim

In the next blog, I will share with you “Prayer Beads – an Essential Utensil in the Kitchen of Prayer”

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