by Glenda Bourne
Sometimes I find myself thinking after I pray to God - Did I do that right? Should I have asked for that? Who did I forget to pray for? Did I remember all the people I wanted to pray for? Did I mention all the people I am thankful for? Did I express my gratitude to God for His grace adequately? Was my prayer enough?
As a child I attended both church and Sunday School on Sunday morning, but I don't ever remember hearing a lesson on how to pray. My mother was a Christian and made sure that, as small children, we said our “prayers” every night kneeling beside our bed on the cold floor. The prayer was: "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. If I should live another day, I pray the Lord to guide my ways." After going to bed, that line about dying before I awakened troubled me and made me wonder why the Lord would want to take my soul while I slept. Maybe if I hadn't prayed, I might not have called His attention to me, which might have reminded Him that He could take my soul.
Fortunately, very soon in Sunday School we learned the Lord's Prayer, and this gave me more direction and less fear following my night time prayers. As I grew older I learned other formal prayers: the Apostles’ Creed, the Serenity Prayer, and a Prayer for Inner Peace and Calm. The latter especially helped guide me to share my life and problems at chaotic times in my life. I'm not sure of the source of this prayer, but it helped me when I could not organize my own thoughts and words to talk to God. I think I revised it over the years as my situation changed: "Heavenly Father, grant me peace of mind and calm my troubled head. My soul is like a turbulent sea, I can't seem to find my way, so I stumble and worry constantly. Give me the strength and clarity of mind to find my purpose and walk the path you would have me take. I trust in your Love, God, and know that you will help me out of this turbulence and indecision. Please bring me clarity with your love and light."
As I continued to better understand the importance of prayer in my everyday life, not just in crisis, I looked to the Bible to guide me in my quest to “get it right.” The Old Testament has many examples of prayers: prayers for strength, prayers to help overcome enemies, and prayers for peace. I began to see that you could talk to God about anything.
In the New Testament, Jesus's words in Matthew 5:44 helped me when I was dealing with anger and what I saw as injustice, “But I say to you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." Of course, Jesus' instructions to the disciples on how to pray the prayer that we now call the “Lord’s Prayer" also gives guidance (Luke 11:1-4).
As my understanding of prayer has evolved, I feel we can pray to God anytime, anywhere and about anything without fearing that we are “not getting it right.” I do understand that my prayers should help me center myself on God and not center God on me. We always have God’s attention. The relationship we are working to maintain with God is the most important. He already knows everything we are sharing, but the relationship gets stronger as we share with the understanding that He is listening.