As we move through the stress and strain of our daily lives, sometimes we wonder how we should best handle our worries and fears, our hopes and desires, our needs and our wants. Where can we find help and strength to carry our in the burden of life? Stress relief is often the topic of many emotional self-help books and audio recordings, like the ones we see on TV at 3 am between Law and Order and Dracula vs. the Wolfman, Part 17. They tell us that we can look inside ourselves to find The Power of Living, as one so-called collection states. Yet, these always cost large amounts of time and rather large amounts of money, because, as we all know, 4 easy payments of $39.99 is not cheap to anyone in a recession.
However, I would like to offer a simpler, easier, more fulfilling method to handle to problems of this world. Something that is useful anywhere, in any situation. It’s inexpensive (actually, it’s free), anyone can do it, and available to all. The solution is prayer.
Now, you may ask yourself, why pray? Well, Paul tells us in his first letter to the Thessalonians, chapter 5, verse 17, to “pray continually.” I know that in my life things happen on a regular basis such that I need help, or just want to talk about them with someone. God is always there and ready to hear what I have to say. Christ commands us to pray in Matthew 7:7ff, when He says “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” God wants us to talk with Him. He is willing to listen to us in our times of trouble, or even to thank him for what He has done for us. Even medical studies show that prayer is helpful in the midst of an illness. Prayer relieves stress by focusing one’s attention and calming an individual. Prayer is the equivalent of a child’s time-out. It gives us a moment to step back and look at the things around us.
How, then, should we pray? Christ answers this question fully when He says in Matthew 6:9ff, “This, then, is how you should pray,” and follows with what has thus been known as the Lord’s Prayer. However, this is not the only way that we can talk to our Father. Martin Luther states one method of praying in his definition of the Second Commandment, taken from his Small Catechism, which states that we should “in every time of need call upon [God], pray to him, praise him, and give him thanks.” From this we can see three major types of prayer: prayer in times of need, praising God as our great and almighty King, and thanking God for the gifts He has given to us. When we pray in times of need, we should ask God not only to help us and watch over us, but those around us, such as our family and loved ones; Christ even tells us to pray for our enemies. Thanking and praising God should be the easiest part of prayer, because of all of the gifts we receive from Him should be more than enough of a reason to pray. All of these types of prayer can be seen in the most amazing collection of prayers ever assembled: the Psalms. Here we see many of the different ways that we can talk to God. But these are not the only ways. Even just having a plain, old conversation with the Creator of all (as ironic as that sounds) is a comfortable and helpful way to give peace to our lives. Some see prayer as a quiet meditation time, to look over the events of their lives and to seek God’s guidance. That is the essence of prayer. Asking for God’s guidance and strength, seeking His peace and love, searching for His will and desires in our lives.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of prayer? As for the latter, I see no drawbacks to talking with God. He commands it, and answers us. When we pray, He comes to us and comforts us in our time of need. All that He asks is that, when we pray, we thank and praise Him. To me, this sounds like a win-win situation. The benefits of prayer are even greater. Besides the physiological benefits of relaxation, rest, and rejuvenation, we receive many mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits as well. Peace, joy, happiness, restoration of the heart and mind, comfort, and strength are just a few of the things that we see in our lives after we pray to God. Also, God answers those questions that most trouble our hearts and minds, and He leads us to live lives of good and faithful righteousness in Him.
After having seen all of these reasons to pray, sometimes we are still unsure of what pray. Many daily devotional books and pamphlets, such as the Portals of Prayer series, updated every quarter, which is available online through Concordia Publishing House, are readily accessible to all. Also, leaflets, like Talking with God, are handy in looking into the discussion of prayer and its usefulness. The Treasury of Daily Prayer, and it’s corresponding app, Pray Now, are available at all times through any Apple device.
Prayer should be a major part in the lives of every Christian. Its benefits are far greater than even the person praying can ever imagine. We are commanded to pray by God Himself. It is not time consuming nor is it hard to do. We have a shoulder to cry on, someone to laugh with about the humor of life, someone to hear us and understand all of the things that affect us in our daily lives. With this kind of a deal, who could pass up the opportunity to be heard? The benefits are outstanding, and in the end, we will be glad that we did it. So go on, pray. It regularly gets me through this blog. It can get you through anything.