March 4, 2014

Prayer and making music . . .

Today’s devotional reading talks about the art of prayer. It tells the story of a boy who heard “God Save the Queen” being played on a mouth organ. He pressured his mother to buy him one, but when he put his mouth to it, all he got was noise. He threw it down in disgust saying, “There is no ‘God Save the Queen’ in this mouth organ.”

Learning to play a musical instrument requires time and practice. Prayer also takes practice, but I’m convinced that only the content requires a learning curve. I don’t think that my delivery matters that much. I’ve been with people who prayed in King James English, but the use of ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ didn’t seem to have greater power than the prayers prayed in ordinary speech. I don’t think God listens to our vocabulary as much as He listens to our hearts.

That said, there is a power in prayer for those whose lives are consistently in line with the will of God. David said, “Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found . . .” (Psalm 32:6) and James affirmed that “the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16).

This makes sense. A person walking in disobedience would not know how to pray in the will of God. Those prayers would be selfish rather than having any interest in the needs of others or the things of God.

Jesus knew how to pray. When the disciples saw and heard Him, they asked Him to teach them how to pray. He offered them a model or outline regarding the content of their prayers . . .

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Matthew 6:5–13)

But He also gave them several other instructions. He told them to be persistent, good advice for those of us who try it and too easily give up like the little boy and his mouth organ. He told them to keep on asking, seeking, and knocking because they are talking to their heavenly Father who knows how to give good things to His children.

He warned them also to not be like hypocrites who prayed only to impress others. They might gain some kind of human prestige, but not answers from God. It is better to pray in a closet where no one can see or hear but the Lord, than to pray publicly with the idea of making an impression on any who are within earshot.

Jesus also warned against going on and on in prayer as if many words would be more effective. God already knows what we need before we ask. Again, He is more interested in my heart than my vocabulary.

This is basic stuff for someone who has been a Christian as long as I have, but timely reminders of the beauty and simplicity of talking to God. I cannot play a mouth organ, but I can bare my soul to my heavenly Father, and when I do, it is music to His ears.

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