Exodus 8:8 Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Pray to the Lord to take the frogs away from me and my people, and I will let your people go to offer sacrifices to the Lord.”
Two things are very interesting to me about this. The first is how Pharaoh was using the language Moses and Aaron had used with him in speaking of the Lord. As far as he was concerned, this was just another god, of which Egypt already had plenty. The second is how he commanded them to pray, rather than asking them. (This nuance is much clearer in the Japanese than in English.) Genuine prayer is not something you really can command. Pharaoh’s attitude betrayed just about the same level of understanding of prayer as the average person today! Someone without a relationship with their Creator is going to look on prayer from a superstitious viewpoint, much like a good luck charm. Accordingly, they expect no more from prayer than they would from a good luck charm. Modern science has dispelled a lot of superstition, but the impulse is still there in those who don’t know God personally. It’s pretty scary to feel there are spiritual rules out there but not really have any idea what they are. That’s why God has given us the Bible, but if we look at it only as a rule book, we miss a great deal. It is indeed a rule book, but its whole point is to draw us into relationship with the Author, to let Him write His rules in our hearts. (Jeremiah 31:33) When that happens, prayer is a joyful privilege, and not a duty to be commanded.
As I am often reminded, I was raised in a home where prayer was as natural as breathing, so I have had to learn what most people think and feel about prayer simply by observation. It has been hard to get it through my head that prayer doesn’t feel natural to a lot of people! I have a paper on the wall beside the computer where I do most of my sermon preparation, with an outline titled Preaching to Change Lives. (I got it from Mark Conner of Australia.) Toward the last of the outline it says, “’Teach them to do all I have commanded you,’ e.g. how to pray.” I’m not a very good teacher of prayer, because to me it doesn’t feel like something to be taught. I know I am continuing to learn about prayer, but at the same time I don’t know how to teach it! I need to seek the Lord as to how to pass on to others what He has poured into me, so that they too may discover the joy of natural prayer that wells up from the heart, in any and every situation.
Father, thank You for enabling me to express my dilemma. I have no real answer to it myself, so I ask You to guide me. I know that You want all Your children to talk with You freely, listening as well as talking, so I ask You to use me to guide them into doing so. I have certainly proved that I can’t do it on my own! May Your children across the world indeed rise up, to be and do all that You intend so that Your Name may be acknowledged as holy and Your kingdom come, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!