There is nothing subtle about little children. When loved ones comes home after being away, they scream, “Daddy!” “Grandpa!” “Mommy!” “Grandma” and dash across the room to hug them. They have plenty to say, are ready to play and enjoy being with them. Martin Luther in the Small Catechism compares prayer to a child who comes to talk to his father. (Small Catechism, Lord’s Prayer, 3.1) God wants us to come to him and to ask for anything, knowing that he loves us, cares for us, wants the best for us and will answer our prayer.
In many religions, prayer is more about getting what you want from a god, an ancestor, a spirit or some other supernatural being. It is often filled with attempts to manipulate the deity and receiving the desired result. The spirit is distant, not so interested in us or a fearful being. Like the Wizard of Oz, you just don’t get near them.
Not so with our Heavenly Father. Prayer is more about our relationship with our Father, who loved us before he made the world, who made us and cares for us daily, who sent his Son to die for our sins and rise from death that we might live with him forever. He wants us to come with him, to share our lives with him and to see how he acts to provide for us. After all, Luther points out, God knows what we need before we pray. We pray so that he will be a part of our everyday lives.
In our culture, there is no problem with talking to God. It is when he talks back that they think we’re crazy. But God speaks through his word, through the events in our lives and other Christians. We see his love in what he has done and will do for us. So it is that we pray to him in many ways, from a short one-liner or making the sign of the cross, to praise of him in hymns, to the formal prayers of the divine service and other times we gather as a church to pray. When we do so, we grow closer to our father in heaven, who loves it when we come to him and share our lives with him.
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