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Lord teach us to Pray Part 3: “If In My Name…”

Jesus said, “If you ask me for anything in my name, I will do it.”

As a child of about 7-8 years old, I used to spend summers visiting my maternal grandparents who lived in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

On one of those visits, being a precocious and curious child, I got out of my bed one night to spy on my grandparents’ house while they were asleep, or so I thought.

I heard voices in somewhat hushed tones coming from their room. And in my curiosity I eased to their room door and peeked in, and what I saw caused me to freeze in my tracks.

I saw both my grandparents on their knees, holding each other’s hands, eyes closed and praying. I stood there for what seemed like an hour mesmerized as they audibly talked to God in prayer. I eased my way back to bed, but that picture is indelibly etched in my mind and heart.

I never mentioned to them that I watched them praying. I never asked them about praying. I did not need to. Their life seemed to be a life of prayer. Their prayers thus were an outgrowth of a personal relationship they had with Jesus of Nazareth.

Having a relationship with Jesus the Christ of Nazareth had enabled them to endure many challenges both societal and personal. Living under the occupation of anti-Black violence in the southern region of this nation was a frightful and fearful thing sometimes. Yet it was their relationship and their hope in Jesus that had brought them through every trial, every test and every tragedy they either witnessed or experienced.

Their relationship kept them in the word of God, internalizing that word and in particular the words of Jesus as recorded in the gospels.

They depended on His promises, they relied on His words, and they put all their hope in His words.

And when Jesus said in the gospel of John, “If you ask me anything in my name…” they believed it because they had a relationship with Jesus.

If you are a Christian and want to deepen your prayer life, it starts with your relationship with The Lord of the Church, Jesus the Christ of Nazareth.

Many struggle with prayer because they don’t understand what a real relationship is. We have relationships with people throughout our lives and many if not most of the time we are playing a role. We oftentimes fear being our true self because we don’t want to be looked upon in a negative way. We hold things back even in many marriages for fear of being judged, made fun of or caricatured in a negative light.

This carries over into our prayer life and how we pray to God through Jesus. A relationship with anyone, especially our God, requires that we be honest about ourselves.

There is also the misperception that you have to talk a certain way in prayer. The misperception exists that you can’t question God and you can’t either get angry with God or say what you really feel to God, even if your words contain some of what is commonly called profanity.

We have been led to believe that God has the same pathologies as we do. However, when we are in authentic relationships with other people, we allow our true selves to come through.

That then is the objective of prayer. To be fully present in all the fragile, frail and flawed ways that we are because we believe that God does not judge us but God guides us, comforts us, understands us and loves us so much that God just wants to be in relationship with us just as we are.

Prayer is also the practice of listening. We don’t listen well as humans. We silence ourselves only to wait for the other person to finish, so that we can say what’s on our minds, and we usually miss what the other person actually said.

We also in our loquacious tendencies like to litigate ad infinitum our problems and the problematic people we encounter and miss the majesty of listening. Suppose you have a friend and your friend only calls you to complain about a person or a problem or both, and the moment you want to share what’s on your heart they rush off the phone or end the meeting before you could express what you are dealing with?

You are going to feel slighted, unheard and taken for granted. Yet, in our prayer time we often use the precious moment we have with God as a time to banter on about our problems or to ask for more stuff.

Prayer is the practice of listening for the “still small voice” of God. “Still Small Voice” comes from a scripture in I Kings 19. Yet the original Hebrew does not say “Still Small Voice” it says, “God spoke in the sound of sheer silence.”

Prayer should be times of just plain silence where we are practicing tuning out all the other voices that demand our attention so we can discern the voice of God in our own souls. God’s voice will not compete with other voices, it is your responsibility to make God the priority voice in your soul and spirit.

To do that, however, takes patience and practice so that like my maternal grandparents you won’t just develop a deeper prayer life but a life of prayer, then you will understand Jesus’ words, “If you ask me for anything in my name, I will do it.”

God bless you and keep you!

CLICK TO READ PART 1

CLICK TO READ PART 2

Knowing The Truth - Part I
Rev. John E. Jackson

Rev. Dr. John E. Jackson, Sr. is the Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ-Gary, 1276 W. 20th Ave. in Gary. “We are not just another church but we are a culturally conscious, Christ-centered church, committed to the community; we are unashamedly Black and unapologetically Christian.”

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