It is so easy to view spirituality in convenient and inconvenient terms today. Did the service begin and end on time? Can I access the message remotely, or must I show up in person? Is there a coffee bar on site, or do I have to stop at Starbucks on the way? Is childcare provided, or will I need to put up with noisy children? How good of a selection of religious goods and services, including service projects, will I find there, or must I supplement my spirituality with other providers? The list goes on and on.
This view of things includes an approach to prayer. Can I pray quickly, be done with it until tomorrow, and get on with my day? Is there an express lane or cashier-free counter, or must I wait upon the Lord in prayer? Do I have to pray for my enemies, or can I simply pray for my friends? How much of the time must I give thanks and praise to God, and what percentage of my prayers can be focused on my wants, maybe even needs? Can I pay to have someone else pray for me, or to wait in line for me until it’s my turn?
We might even come to view God’s approach to prayer in terms of convenience and inconvenience: Some might even say to themselves, “Don’t bother God. Just leave a message.” “God’s busy and doesn’t want to be interrupted.” “Give the Almighty a break. He’s got enough on the plate.” We’re not to babble like the Gentiles do, so once a day, week, month, or year we’ll pray a tweet, unless God prefers we hold off until the fifty-year Jubilee. After all, he’s made available everything we need for now on Amazon.
It is worth noting that following on the heels of Jesus’ statement not to babble lengthy prayers like the Gentiles do in hopes of being heard, since God knows what we need before we ask (Matthew 6:7-8), he tells us how to pray. Prayer is vitally important to Jesus. Why? It has nothing to do with conveniences and inconveniences, but has everything to do with unbelievable invitations and privileges, dire needs and necessities, and world-altering disturbances. Here’s what Jesus says in the Lord’s Prayer:
Pray then like this:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
(Matthew 6:9-13; ESV)
While you cannot fit all of it onto a tweet, it is rather brief. Still, this prayer will last you until God’s kingdom comes in its fullness. So, what’s the grand invitations and privileges, dire needs and necessities, and world-altering disturbances that one finds disclosed in this prayer? I welcome your thoughts. I will seek to answer this question, too, in the days ahead.