So, how do we pray? Well, like all relationships, there are no rules. Like my relationship with my wife Pippa, it’s not like ‘This is how we have our conversations!’ We have conversations in all kinds of different ways! Sometimes there’s a little bit of an agenda we go through. But you’re totally free to talk to God in any way that you want.
And over the years I’ve had many different patterns of praying. Sometimes I’ve used the Lord’s Prayer as a structure. I’ve had different ways of praying. But I’d say that what’s common to all the different ways that I’ve prayed is three things, and they’re the three things that you teach children right from the start, aren’t they: ‘Thank you. Sorry. Please.’
It is really important to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. There’s so much to thank God for. You know, ‘count your blessings, not your problems’.
And then ‘Sorry’. I came across this prayer: ‘So far today, God, I’ve done all right. I haven’t gossiped, haven’t lost my temper, haven’t been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish or overindulgent – and I’m really glad about that. But in a few minutes, God, I’m going to get out of bed, and from then on I’m probably going to need a lot more help.’
I always find there’s plenty to confess. Why do we need to confess our sins? Because Jesus died on the cross for us. He took all our sin. We’re totally forgiven. That’s what we were looking at a couple of weeks ago. So why did Jesus say, ‘Well, pray forgive us our sins’? Well, Jesus used a visual aid to explain this.
The night before he was crucified, he had dinner with his disciples, and at the end of dinner, he got down with a towel and started washing their feet. And when he came to Peter, he was about to wash Peter’s feet and Peter said, ‘No, no, no, please, don’t wash my feet!’ And Jesus said, ‘Unless I wash your feet, I have no part of you.’ And Peter said, ‘Well, in that case, wash my whole body!’
And Jesus said, ‘No, I don’t need to wash your whole body. Someone who’s had a bath is already clean. You only need to have your feet washed.’ (John 13:5–8)
So that’s like when you pray a prayer like I know some of you have prayed, asking Jesus into your life, and you received total forgiveness, that’s like your whole body is washed. You don’t need to have another bath. We don’t need to start again every time we mess up. But as we go through life we pick up dirt on the way, and daily we need to receive forgiveness.
And then ‘Please’. Jesus said, ‘Pray, ask for your daily bread.’ In other words, ask for anything you need. Anything that matters to you matters to God. Pray for others, yes, but also pray for yourself. There’s nothing that you’re concerned about which God does not want to hear about.