A short, honest prayer

When’s the last time you prayed a completely genuine prayer?

For some of you it was this morning.

For others it’s been awhile.

Prayer—because we do it so often—easily becomes ritualistic. Like brushing our teeth or making a pot of coffee, we do it without thinking.

Have you ever gotten out of the shower and suddenly wondered if you washed your hair?

You probably did, but you don’t remember doing it because you were thinking about work or the kids or that weird-looking mole instead of shampoo.

That’s one reason I love hearing new Christians pray–they haven’t done it much. They didn’t grow up in the church and they don’t know the “right” way to pray. They’re refreshingly candid.

They haven’t been around church long enough to learn the clichés. They haven’t been cornered by the prayer police on what’s appropriate and what isn’t.

They just sorta tell God what’s on their heart and ask him for what they think they need.

Jesus tells a short story about a tax collector who hadn’t been taught to pray. He didn’t grow up in Sunday school, and most religious people despised him.

But God smiled when he heard the prayer.

He didn’t string together three or four adjectives to describe God. No clichés or pious-sounding phrases. He didn’t brag about his humility.

He just cried out, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”

I suppose he didn’t know what else to say.

But it was enough, according to Jesus.

“I tell you, this man went down to his house justified . . . . For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:13-14).

I suppose I’ve heard thousands of prayers in my life, and I’ve never heard one that short or simple.

Give it a shot today.

In your prayer time, think about every single word.

Cry out to God. Confess your secret sins to him. Tell him what’s on your mind.

But whatever you say, mean it.

If you’re like me, after 10 or 15 seconds you’ll start throwing in some of the same things you always say.

Just stop and start over.

Keep it short. Keep it simple. Keep it honest.

Pray as if it’s your first time.

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