One of the temptations that we as Christian leaders regularly face is to not pray when we pray. We say prayers before meals, with our children before bed, before we teach Sunday school classes, and when we stand during worship services. And if your life is anything like mine, you are the designated pray-er for family functions. But there is a significant risk when we bow for prayer but don’t actually pray.
The Apostle Paul writes: “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18). Paul would agree that when we pray, we need to actually pray.
I’m convinced that every time we take a posture of prayer and don’t actually talk to the Lord, our hearts harden just a little to prayer; whereas every time we actually talk to God during a time of prayer, our hearts are just a bit softer the next time around. This is why in our household there has always been one rule—and only one rule—when we pray together. We don’t care whether you stand, sit, kneel, close your eyes, or lift your hands. The rule is this: When you pray, actually talk to the Lord.
Admittedly, it can sometimes be difficult to actually pray each and every time you pray. Sometimes we feel forced into prayer postures. One of my daughters during her middle school years expressed it this way: “But if I don’t pray when everyone else is praying, what will people think?”
In any prayer situation in which your heart is not turned upward, my recommendation is that you pause, perhaps open your eyes for a moment, recalibrate, remind yourself Who it is you are talking to, and then offer a short prayer to the Lord. The result of such patterning will be an ever increasing openness to the Lord and a softness toward prayer.
For more, visit the Good Book Blog, a seminary faculty blog from Talbot School of Theology.