How could I have gone wrong in teaching my son to pray? At supper the other night my son prayed for the meal: “Dear Lord, Thank you for this day…” No! I thought, and almost stopped him mid-prayer.
I consciously never begin my prayers with the old “thank you for this day” standby and yet my son has already picked it up by four years old. Where did he get it? Who taught him that? A family member? A Sunday school teacher? Who?! I was ready to go hunt them down and go all Matthew 6:7 on them.
Okay, I’ll admit that I’m still working on mindless prayers, too. Purging one mindless prayer opens up room for seven others in its place, so I’ve probably got a whole personal legion of them now.
And I still say “In Jesus’ name (but with more theological understanding now), Amen.” But after years of beginning my prayers “Thank you for this day” I have decidedly put that one to rest. I shutter to think of hearing my mindlessness reflected in my children’s prayers. We all learn to pray by example, and I want to be a good example for my children.
In John 11 when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he raised his eyes to heaven and prayed out loud, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me” (verse 42). Jesus goes on to say something interesting. He points out that reason he prayed publicly was so that the people standing around him, “may believe that You sent Me” (verse 43).
Jesus not only taught how to pray; Jesus even taught in his prayers.
What about us? Should we do the same thing? Should we teach by our prayers? We’ve probably all been frustrated by the preacher who re-preaches his sermon in his prayer or adds that final jab in as he prays. But we probably aren’t supposed to teach through our prayers the way Christ did. He was teaching about himself and his unique relationship to God.
But remember this: even if we don’t teach through our prayers, our prayers do teach. They teach about God, ourselves, and prayer.
Isn’t it humorous, if not embarrassing, to think about what our prayers teach? What kind of God do we pray to? Too often a wish-granter or good ol’ pal. When do we pray? Meals, bed-time, and Sundays—that’s it. And how should we pray? Use a special “prayer” voice that you would never use in normal conversation. Use big words, lots of adjectives (“glorious”), and run-on sentences. We won’t even delve into the bad theology perpetuated through prayers!
So what are your prayers teaching?