How Should We Pray?

“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”

I try to avoid politics. Really, I do.

I dislike partisan bickering and divisiveness that casts someone as the personification of evil simply based on party affiliation. I’m opposed to rhetoric that twists every event to fit a pre-conceived ideology and advance an imperfect human agenda.

Certainly I have my own views on matters of public policy, but I’ve discovered that my personal positions rarely align perfectly with “red” or “blue” factions. I try to listen to all sides, understand the facts, and take a position that makes sense based on my information. I’m also certain that I’m probably wrong more than I’m right. I’m not convinced that any person or ideology holds all the answers, and I’m innately suspicious of those who scream their convictions with absolute certainty.

I profess a single, central truth: Jesus loves me, this I know. I try, and usually fail, to reason and relate from this base.

With that background, I’m mystified by “controversy” surrounding President Obama’s choices regarding observance of the National Day Of Prayer.

Personally, I believe that every day ought to be a day of prayer, though I fall significantly short of that mark in my own life. And whenever people choose to gather to pray corporately on any occasion, I believe God hears and answers those prayers.

But why is any individual’s choice regarding prayer a matter of concern to Christians? When did publicly prescribed prayer become a requirement?

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6: 5-8)

My prayers are between God and me, and I’m grateful that He forgives me for not talking and listening to Him as much as I should. Sometimes I pray corporately with other believers, but most often I pray behind closed doors. And far too often I don’t pray at all. I’ve never attended a public observance of the National day Of Prayer. That makes me no less sincere as a believer, just as regular attendance offers no indication of another’s relationship with Jesus.

If I judge another’s personal prayer life, I need to be careful that I don’t set a standard I cannot meet. If we feel we can decide when and how someone else should talk to God, we might someday find ourselves on the other end of that stick.

The president, like anyone else, ought to be free to pray, or not, according to his own conscience. And Christians, especially, ought to respect and honor that choice.

How can you and I make each day a personal day of prayer?

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