Learning to Pray
I am humbled whenever I read the Apostle Paul’s prayers in Scripture. My prayers for others tend to be superficial (Lord, I pray that all will go well for So-and-so) and temporary (God, keep So-and-so safe on their trip). In my prayers for others, I don’t seem to get beyond the surface of what is happening in their lives at the moment. But Paul’s prayers go deeper; they address far more significant matters; they touch on matters that are important for a lifetime.
1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 consists of one of Paul’s shortest prayers in Scripture. He makes just two requests on behalf of the Thessalonians, but these two requests address their character and the impact their lives will have on others.
Here are the two requests:
1: “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else….”
2: “May He strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father….”
I tend to ask God to make everything turn out nicely for a person. Paul prays that they will grow in love and integrity.
I would much rather be the recipient of Paul’s prayers than a recipient of my prayers!
I am inspired, though, by the great prayers of others.
I appreciate the prayer of Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274):
“Give me, O Lord, a steadfast heart, which no unworthy affection may drag downwards; give me an unconquered heart, which no tribulation can wear out; give me an upright heart, which no unworthy purpose may tempt aside.”
And I am moved by the prayer of Julian of Norwich (1342-1416):
“O God, out of Your goodness, give me Yourself, for You are enough for me. I can ask nothing less that would be fully to Your glory. And if I do ask anything less, I will always be in need, since it is only in You that I have all!”
I am challenged by a Franciscan Benediction:
“May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart. May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace. May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy. And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.”
I am inspired by a prayer my wife prayed:
“Show me grace enough to want to grow; give me strength enough to want to go; hold me close enough to feel Your peace; may the love of God increase within me, around me, through me. Amen.”
And I love a simple but profound prayer my five-year-old granddaughter prayed:
“Wait for God. Don’t take longer. Say, ‘I love you.’ Don’t be afraid.”
I hope to learn to pray for the deeper things we all need.