Prayer 1: Simple Prayer
Those who are beginning in prayer just need to start. Some have called the prayers of beginners “simple prayer.” I think of these as the prayers we begin teaching our kids to pray.
Richard Foster, in Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, describes simple prayer like this:
“In Simple Prayer we bring ourselves before God just as we are, warts and all. Like children before a loving father, we open our hearts and make our requests…. In a very real sense, we are the focus of Simple Prayer. Our needs, our wants, our concerns dominate our prayer experience.”
We find people praying simple prayers in the Bible (encouraging, right?). For example,
- Moses complains to God in Numbers 11:11-12. “He asked the Lord, ‘Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors?’” Notice how his words to God are Moses-centered.
- Hannah pleads with God for a son in 1 Samuel 1:11: “And she made a vow, saying, ‘Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.’”
- Jeremiah prays these words in Jeremiah 20:7: “You deceived me, LORD, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me.”
- Jesus even calls us to simple prayer, in a way, when he includes prayer for our daily bread in the Lord’s Prayer.
From lament to impassioned pleas, our biblical heroes of the faith prayed this way, too. We may be tempted to skip over this form of prayer, especially if we have been praying for quite some time, because it is too elementary. We want maturity, not immaturity. We want to avoid “self-centered prayer” in favor of “other-centered prayer.” The only way we move beyond simple prayer is to go through it. St. Teresa of Avila wrote, “There is no stage of prayer so sublime that it isn’t necessary to return often to the beginning.” No matter how long you’ve been a Christian, simple prayer reminds you that you are a child of the Father, with no need to impress Him with lofty words or lengthy paragraphs.
As you practice simple prayer today, pick one topic and speak about it to God. You can pray as little or as long as you want.
- A pressing need in your life.
- An area of discouragement or fear.
- A question you have for God.
- A longing or desire for God to do something in you.
- A prayer for a family member or close friend.