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Why do you pray?

March 9, 2012
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Pray Meditation PresidentYou might not count yourself as a Christian, or as ‘religious’, but I wonder if you’ve ever prayed? If so, in that fleeting moment, what did you pray for? I think that what we pray for shows a lot about WHY we pray.

I think at heart our default sort of prayer, for those of Christian faith or not, is the “God, please help me!” prayer – the “please save me from this situation”, or the “please heal this person”, or “please don’t let me get found out” if we feel we’ve done something wrong. The phrase “there are no atheists in a plane crash” springs to mind; the idea that in the face of an extreme situation where death seems inevitable – the vast majority of people would probably naturally cry out to God for help to save them from that situation. Arguably our default prayers ultimately boil down to me-centred prayers – essentially we’re saying “God, please help and do what I want!” and often we don’t give God a second thought between those “ah, God, I need help!” situations!

However, I think there is a second type of prayer, a kind of prayer which comes much less naturally to us, but is so much more valuable – the God-centred prayer. This is the kind of prayer which acknowledges that God is God, that He is in control and He is totally good. It’s praying because God is God, not because I selfishly want something.

This second sort of prayer doesn’t treat God as a puppet to make my life comfortable, or to do what I think is best – if God answered my beck and call, and worked through my selfish shopping list, He would be no God at all and my life would be far worse! But, this second type of prayer is the humbling type of prayer, which puts God in his rightful place – at the centre of all things and my life. This isn’t to say that we can’t ask God to help us in various situations, but the difference is the attitude behind it. This prayer says to God “YOUR Kingdom come, YOUR will be done”, even though it might not be what I want or what I think is best – it is saying God, YOU know best, please help me to see that and to trust you even if I can’t see what you’re doing. This type of prayer is so liberating and refreshing!

I realised that I naturally lapse into the first type of prayer because of how I was praying about my work. Working on reception in a Doctor’s surgery can be so manic and tiring, particularly on days when we’re short of appointments and there’s still such great demand for them! I thought back and realised that I had been saying to God “please help us to have a quiet day today!” – ie. please do what I want and give me an easy, comfortable day! Whereas, if I was treating God as God and humbling myself to his good plan, I would’ve been acknowledging that maybe in God’s big picture and much better plan, today might be a busy day. So, instead, I would have been praying “please God, help me to trust you and please equip me to serve you, whether it’s busy or quiet today”. But, like I said at earlier – it is a battle and humbling ourselves to God and His wonderful sovereign plan isn’t always easy because the first type of prayer and selfishness is so ingrained, that we even need to pray for God’s help to pray with the right attitude and priorities!

How do you find prayer? Deep down do you just want God to do what you want? I’d love to hear your thoughts…

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. March 9, 2012 9:38 pm

    Thoughtful and beautiful reflection on prayer!
    The focus should ever be on God and His will in all things. It’s amazing the shift that happens inside us when we cease that “me” prayer!
    Thanks for sharing this with us, Natalie!
    Blessings!

    • Natalie permalink
      March 10, 2012 9:33 am

      Thank you for your comment Martha! 🙂

  2. Jo Mote permalink
    March 10, 2012 8:51 pm

    So very very very well expressed Natalie – thankyou. I think i need a succinct summary of that on the front of my prayer diary because I need to be reminded to step out of my self absorption in prayer (as in everything else) every day!! Thankyou. xx

    • Natalie permalink
      March 11, 2012 8:07 am

      Thank you so much Jo – I think we all need to be reminded of that!

  3. March 11, 2012 11:38 am

    Good post Natalie. When I pray, I would like to talk to God, rather than repeating preset words. And yes, instead of asking God our needs all the time….. I want to say simply, I love you God!

    • Natalie permalink
      March 11, 2012 5:09 pm

      Thank you Jovy, that’s exactly what we should be saying in prayer! 🙂

  4. March 11, 2012 7:58 pm

    I enjoyed this very much, and I work diligently to be in the second type of prayer category, and I believe very strongly in intercessory prayer. Praying for one another is a privilege and a blessing. Wonderful post!

    • Natalie permalink
      March 16, 2012 9:26 am

      Thank you 🙂 As you say, it is a privilege to be able to pray for each other too.

  5. March 11, 2012 8:55 pm

    I think it’s natural that we ask many things for our own needs. It’s not so much out of self absorption but just because the first thing we think of is ourselves. I think we can’t pull out love and give it to others unless we find it inside of us.

    However, when prayer becomes focused only on ourselves, and fails to reach out to others, then we might be leading to a road of selfishness.

    I remember when I was in College, I’d compose prayers and my professor noticed that i was only praying for a small group of people. He told me I could start by asking for my needs but then, I should also think of other people, then the world… then eventually the rosary beads became the very people I pray for.

    So where does God enter the picture? It becomes God-centered when we do Lectio, praying with the Word. He is the Word.It’s beautiful when Natalie wrote of the the Lord’s prayer, the pattern of all prayers. It’s something I/ we should reflect on more.

    I also find St. Francis of Assisi’s prayers beautiful and God-centered:

    Saint Francis’ Prayer in Praise of God, Given to Brother Leo

    You are holy, Lord, the only God, and Your deeds are wonderful.
    You are strong. You are great. You are the Most High. You are Almighty.
    You, Holy Father are King of heaven and earth. You are Three and One, Lord God, all Good.
    You are Good, all Good, supreme Good, Lord God, living and true.
    You are love. You are wisdom. You are humility. You are endurance.
    You are rest. You are peace. You are joy and gladness.
    You are justice and moderation. You are all our riches, and You suffice for us.
    You are beauty. You are gentleness. You are our protector.
    You are our guardian and defender. You are our courage.
    You are our haven and our hope. You are our faith, our great consolation.
    You are our eternal life, Great and Wonderful Lord, God Almighty, Merciful Saviour. Amen.

    • Natalie permalink
      March 16, 2012 9:28 am

      Thank you for sharing that prayer 🙂 definitely helps us to focus on God instead of ourselves and hopefully move to thinking of God and others before ourselves.

  6. March 12, 2012 1:46 am

    Natalie,
    How touching. Sometimes I think just being silent and letting God get into our minds is a prayer we can do when we can’t think of words to say…Be in the presence and “wait” and trust Him to listen even if we have no true words.
    Great post!

    • Natalie permalink
      March 16, 2012 9:31 am

      Thanks Kathy, you make a really good point about being silent in prayer. It reminds me of the verse from the Bible; “Be still and know that I am God”. Thank you for bringing that idea into the discussion 🙂

  7. March 12, 2012 11:16 am

    What a wonderful post on prayer. Most times, it seems, that we tend to pray only when we are in need or we are thanking ‘God’ for something that has happened good in our life. My prayer is more like an on-going conversation with God throughout the day. I just ‘talk’ to Him. Not in any particular way, just talking. About everything. Maybe this has to do with the fact that I have little social interaction with other adults? Not sure, but I have done this for years. This is the only way I know to communicate with Him and the way I feel most comfortable. There is nothing formal about my relationship with God ☺

    • Natalie permalink
      March 16, 2012 9:34 am

      Thanks for sharing this Mary, definitely good to nurture your relationship with God in this way and to not just talk to him in formal ways and situations 🙂

  8. March 12, 2012 5:04 pm

    Wonderful insight here. I think sometimes we treat God like a “Genie in a Bottle” instead of hallowing His Name. Thanks for sharing!

    • Natalie permalink
      March 16, 2012 9:34 am

      Thank you Bryan, I think that’s a really good summary of our attitude to God 🙂

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