I have a book which I open from time to time.
It stays by my home office computer on a shelf.
I used it a lot in my early days after graduation from seminary.
I would look up suggestions about how to conduct a wedding or a funeral or order of worship.
It is the Abington Minister’s Manual.
It has fun facts, as well as deeper, more useful information.
It has a section that is devoted to “How to Pray.”
As a church family, we often say to one another, “I’ll pray for you.”
You have heard it said that we should be praying for our political leaders, for all the families that are suffering during our current health crisis and the racial confrontations that are in the news.
We have many reasons to be in prayer.
I do pray, every day during a time of devotion as I drink my coffee in the morning.
Like many, I have a daily devotional that pops up on my phone every morning.
It is not just something I tell people they should do, but it is something I find worthwhile.
Do you know how to pray?
I am still learning.
Perhaps these words from my 50+ year old Abington Minister’s Manual may help.
First, the instruction begins with a definition, “Prayer is intimate communication with God, taking time to listen (for God’s) word to us.”
One can pray prepared prayers or just simply talk with God.
It can be a specific times of the day or at a moment that seems appropriate.
The book suggests a “prayer posture.”
I think it is a surprise when it is pointed out that one of the most common postures found in the Bible is in a “prone position, lying face-down on the ground, arms spread.
I experienced this first hand when I was dating a girl in college, and she invited me to her church for Sunday evening worship.
At one point during the service, the lights dimmed, the minister asked us to pray and then proceeded to lay on the floor in the front of the church. The members soon followed, and I was the only one remaining in the pew.
I suspect that few of us do that on a regular schedule.
I can relate that I have found it humbling, especially before the table in the church.
Other suggestions include “kneeling,” “seated,” and “bowed head with closed eyes.”
The book cautions us that if driving we should keep our eyes open.
Another suggestion is, “looking at the person for whom you are praying.”
“Offer your prayer with confidence; God listens to all prayer and responds. Breathe deeply, relax and be open as the spirit leads you.”
Here is a bit of advice that is often overlooked, “Take time during your prayer simply to listen. Some prayer traditions involve only silent meditation as a means of listening for God’s voice.”
Others, such as the Kyrie Eleison or “Lord, have mercy,” is a short prayer.
It is a prayer from the heart about our human need.
God owes us nothing.
Everything God gives comes from his mercy.
It is simply, “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.”
My advice is to approach prayer as simply being open and honest with God.
I try to practice what some theologians call a “popcorn” prayer.
Whenever something happens that is good, simply tell God right then, “Thank You, Lord!”
I also take a moment to pray whenever I hear a siren.
If it is an ambulance, I pray for the EMTs, for the family and the patient who is being transported.
If it is fire truck, I pray for the firemen and for those at the scene to which they have been summoned.
If it is the police, I pray for both the police and for those about which they are responding.
I found that particularly difficult when I was the one being pulled over.
But, I feel it was appropriate.
That hasn’t been the case very often.
The book lists types of prayer.
“Supplication” when the requests are for God’s help.
“Contrition” in which sin is confessed and forgiveness requested and intercession on behalf of others.
There are prayers of lament, thanksgiving and submission or “Not my will, but yours.”
This may not be particularly scholarly or deep, but we all need a reminder that when we tell people we are praying for them, we are making a promise that is of great worth.
And, it is always useful to be reminded how we are to do this.
One last thing I would add.
Rev. Frank Chlastak began work as senior minister of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Poplar Bluff on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015.
Editor’s Note: This is a regular series featuring area religious leaders writing about faith, family and community. To participate or suggest a church, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-785-1414. The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of the DAR.