When you pray, don’t go on and on like some people. Don’t think that throwing a lot of words at God makes any difference. God already knows what’s really up. So instead, keep it simple, like this:
God, thank you.
Help us to reach the goal, here, now, on the ground, where we are.
Help us with what we need along the way.
Forgive us when we mess up, and help us get over it when others do.
Help us stay focused, and not to indulge in all the crap.
Remember: What goes around comes around, and karma only bites if you do.
Instead of “just wanting to thank the father,” go ahead and do it already! Invocations at Rotary dinners, community bull-roasts, and even church suppers are not the occasion for droning on and on while people wonder when they get to eat!
This is not intended to be facetious. Prayer is serious. Jesus knows we’re not going to tell God anything God doesn’t already know. So prayer is about cutting through the distractions to focus on what’s important. As far as Jesus is concerned, what’s important, the focus of good prayer, is summarized in five lines:
- Gratitude. Prayer should be the occasion for positive reinforcement of what is right, and why, and remembering to give credit those who have made it possible.
- Progress. Prayer should bring us back to our direction and purpose, and our determination to get where we are called to go. It is the occasion to remember why we do what we do.
- Needs. Prayer isn’t a laundry list of everything we think it might be nice to have. Rather, it’s taking an inventory of what we really need, and discerning where the fulfillment of those needs will come from.
- Community. Prayer recognizes that we’re not alone. It’s a brutally honest assessment of what you yourself need to do to make things right when someone messes things up, realizing that someone is quite often you.
- Focus. Prayer is a means of keeping on task. The distractions, in Jesus’ day and ours, are endless. Procrastination. Involvement in irrelevant discussions on Facebook. The neighbor has gone in and out of the driveway 6 times in the last hour. Prayers that go on and on forever. It’s all evil. It robs you of your time – you can’t ever get it back – and leads to all kinds of other trouble.
Prayer, good prayer, is powerful. It’s serious. It’s a wonderful, useful life tool. And it really works. Just don’t mistake it for an end in itself.
And one last thought: No amount of prayer will make up for being mean.