A language to pray

Published 9:54 am Monday, February 16, 2015

By Andrew Book

Most people pray. Most people do not go to church regularly or read their Bibles regularly, but most people pray on a regular basis. In fact, according to a Pew research study, more than half of Americans pray daily and more than three-out-of-four say that prayer is an important part of life (see http://goo.gl/oi9AuP).

Prayer is important to us, but it is not nearly as “natural” as we often think. We come to God in times of crisis, trouble and need, as well as times of celebration, joy and accomplishment, but I have found it remarkable how much we struggle knowing just how to pray.

As a pastor, I talk with a lot of people about how they pray. I cannot begin to put a number on the number of times people have said something like, “I don’t know how to pray,” or “I know I shouldn’t pray like that,” or “I should not have said this to God.” For something that we say is so important to us, why do we spend so little time figuring out how to do it?

If three-out-of-four of you reading this article truly believe that prayer is an important part of your life, then my question is this: what are you doing to learn how to pray? I am not interested in learning to pray “pretty” prayers that sound nice to other people — Jesus was quite clear that prayers offered to please people were not the kind of prayers God enjoys (see Matthew 6:5-6) — but instead I want to know if you have taken time to learn how to truly talk with God. For most of us, the answer is “no.”

Thankfully, we can begin now. There is no point at which we have passed the age where we can learn more about prayer. On the other side, there is always more to learn about prayer even if we have been talking with God for years. The longest book in the Bible is actually devoted to helping us learn how to talk to God. The book of Psalms is a compilation of 150 different prayers, and this book has been teaching people how to pray since before the birth of Christ. It is available to teach us better how to pray if we will let it.

Too often, people of faith find a small handful of psalms which we love and read again and again. These few psalms are a great way to learn how to talk with God in a few situations, but we need to entire book of Psalms if we are truly going to learn how to pray in every situation of life. As a result, I would like to invite you to join the people of Courtland United Methodist Church in “The Psalms Challenge.” This challenge is to read and pray all 150 psalms during the 40 days of Lent (that is only three to four psalms per day), and I can promise you that these psalms have the power to change your prayer life.

Here’s how the challenge work:. each week, the daily readings and prayer focus will be in The Tidewater News as well as given out in Sunday worship at Courtland United Methodist Church, on our Facebook page, and sent out through our Twitter account (@CourtlandUMC). Your challenge is to read and pray through the psalms for each day while inviting God to show you how these psalms give you words to pray about your life. If you need a Bible, please contact me (my email address is below) and we will get one to you.

To get the most out of this time with the Psalms, you are encouraged to be a part of a small group of people who take time each week to discuss how you are encountering God in the psalms. You are welcome to join one of the groups at Courtland United Methodist Church or form your own group with a few friends, neighbors, or people from your church. With these people (or even with one other person!), you simply need to ask the questions, “How did this psalm teach you to pray?” “What situations in your life need a prayer like this psalm?” and “How have you encountered God in this psalm?”

Try it. Forty days is not too long to give 15 minutes a day to learning how to pray. After all, prayer is something that is an important part of your life!


ANDREW BOOK is the pastor of Courtland United Methodist Church. He can be contacted at 653-2240 or andrew@courtlandumcva.org.