Praying with Boldness
When I was a child, my prayers were predictably child-like. While I learned from Sunday School to pray for what I needed, my needs at the time were pretty basic and surface level. Eventually, as life began to get more complicated, I outgrew my prayers. But instead of my prayer life growing with me, I just stopped praying altogether. It was a long time before I “re-learned” how to pray and tried again. In fact, I sometimes still struggle at being honest with God about my needs and desires.
Perhaps your prayer life is as complicated as mine. As a pastor, I’ve heard from many people over the years that struggle with prayer, especially public prayer. Many of us tremble at the thought of praying in front of people, worried that we might get the words wrong or sound silly. At the same time, we might find that our prayers are not answered in the ways we expected or hoped. In the midst of these complicated dynamics, Jesus instructs to pray with persistence, boldness, and shamelessness, asking specifically for what we need and desire.
In this week’s Scripture reading, the disciples ask Jesus for instruction on how to pray. He responds with a version of the Lord’s Prayer:
He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.’
Perhaps the most meaningful line for me is the petition to, “give us each day our daily bread.” With this prayer, we ask God to give us whatever we need to make it through the day, including physical, material needs, but also spiritual bread like patience, forgiveness, and faith. This wonderfully unspecific prayer allows room for the wisdom and love of God to search our hearts for our innermost needs and desires.
However, Jesus also proceeds to teach the disciples about the need for specific prayer. He illustrates this point through a story of a man who prays with persistence, boldness, and shamelessness. Driving the point home, the story is followed by some of the most famous words of Jesus:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be
opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one
who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Jesus tells his disciples that he wants to know exactly what’s on their hearts - all of their perceived needs, desires, heartache, pain, anger, joy, and gratitude. Jesus wants us to recognize him as a best friend, ready and willing to be in conversation, ready and willing to share and participate in our lives. Why would we hold anything back from our most loving, forgiving, and understanding best friend?
Sometimes it's still hard to find the words. That is why one of my newer practices is to write a personal letter to God. You might find that a blank sheet of paper and pen (or word processor) allows the words to flow more freely and honestly. The truth is that prayer can be a vulnerable space that requires a lot of trust. But Jesus’ message is clear: when you pray, pray with child-like faith, ask specifically for whatever you need, pray boldly and without shame, and pray as if you are having an open, honest conversion with your best friend.
Pastor Mark Johnson
Pastor Kim Dewey