Real prayer comes not from gritting our teeth, but from falling in love. The story is told around Washington about former presidential assistant Bill Moyers, who has a strong Baptist heritage and is presently a popular political commentator. Moyers was giving thanks at a lunch with President Johnson.
His prayer was interrupted by the President, who said, “Speak up, I can’t hear you.” Muttered Moyers, “I wasn’t speaking to you, Mr. President.”
Jesus said, when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Dwight L. Moody had a practical mind that never let a meeting get out of hand. Long public prayers particularly irritated him. Once he told his song leader, Sankey, “Lead us in a hymn while our brother is finishing his prayer.”
There are three rules about a prayer life if you want God’s blessing. Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. RULE 1: We must not let anything shut down our prayer life with God. Daniel knew that it was a foolish decree that Darius had made. Daniel knew that there were those who were trying to destroy him. The easy solution would have been to “give in” and go along with the majority. Even though Daniel knows that it is against the law, he is going to be disobedient! Darius is not a god and Daniel will not pray to what would constitute an idol. Daniel will not stop talking to his God.
Jesus’ disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.” He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread-which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” Even with the windows open and his voice heard on the city streets, Daniel is going to pray.
Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed….RULE 2: Prayer should become a routine part of every day. Anything of importance must be a part of a daily routine. Prayer isn’t just when we are in difficult times – if it is, that says something about our relationship with God. If God is only a second thought in the course of the day, that says something about our closeness to God.
…giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. RULE 3: The style of our prayers tell a lot about the content of our hearts. The Hasidic Jews tell the wonderful story of Morris Meltzer who went to his rabbi and said: “Rabbi, my wife is going to have a baby. It’s our first child and my Lily isn’t so young.
When she goes into labor at our home would you make a special prayer for her?” The Rabbi said, “I’ll do more than that! I’ll come to your house with nine other men to form a minyan and we will pray for her together.” When the labor pains began, Meltzer telephoned the doctor and the rabbi. The doctor came and ran upstairs to the bedroom — the rabbi and the nine men stayed downstairs and began to pray vigorously. Morris sat outside the bedroom and waited. Suddenly the cries of a baby were heard and the doctor stuck his head outside the door and announced: “It’s a boy!” Morris ran to the head of the stairs and yelled down to the swaying men below: “It’s a boy!” They stopped praying — and the men cried out “Mazel tov!” “Congratulations!” The rabbi cried out: “Blessed be the God of Israel!” Then they went back to praying, and Morris went back to the bedroom door, when almost immediately the doctor stuck his head outside the door again and said: “It’s a girl! Twins!” Morris ran to the stairs and yelled: “Another baby! It’s a girl! I have twins!” “Mazel Tov,” shouted the men. “Blessed be the God of Israel,” said the Rabbi. And they went back to praying again. Back to the bedroom door went Morris. The doctor peeked his head outside the door and said: “Another boy!” Morris said: “What? Another boy — triplets!” Morris ran to the stairway and yelled down to the rabbi and the other men: “Hey, all you people down there… STOP praying!”
For Daniel, prayer is worship. To talk to God is more than conversation, it is worship! “Giving thanks” the Bible says.
One day in Lucerne, Switzerland, a man went up to the summit of Mount Pilatus in a cable car operated by hydraulic power. As he ascended, he marveled at the miracles of modern engineering. More than halfway up, his attention was caught by a waterfall. The water poured down the mountainside. If the railway symbolized modern science, then that waterfall was the symbol of primitive nature. “What a contrast!” he thought. Then it suddenly occurred to him that the waterfall was not a contrast but a complement. It was the source of that hydraulic power. It was the force of that water that was driving him up. So it is with prayer. The power that takes us up to God is the same power that comes from God.