Outtakes. Sometimes those are the best parts of any TV show or movie. Outtakes or bloopers happen when an actor forgets their line, starts laughing, or somehow messes up. We enjoy them so much that we have had TV shows in the past that focused on outtakes. In some cases, we see the same scene repeated multiple times because there’s something funny about the scene that cracks the actors up or for some reason the words are just hard to pronounce. Sometimes, I look at the outtakes and tell myself that I could do better; that I should be the one acting. I wouldn’t make those mistakes! (But I probably would.)
There are times when we want to pray, but we don’t know just the right words to say to God. Let’s face it, how many of us could fill a highlight reel with our bloopers when we pray? I flub sometimes when I’m praying with my wife. I don’t say anything at the time, but when I catch myself, I usually am thinking, “What was that?” We take comfort in small prayers that we can memorize. The disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. He gave them a model which, in Luke, was very abbreviated. What He said after the model prayer was just as important. “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke 11:9-10)
The key isn’t getting the exact words right, otherwise we’d have a big conflict between the model prayer in Matthew and the one in Luke. The key is coming with the right heart and with the right ideas. It begins with asking. Do you ask God for what you want or do you hint at it hoping God will guess? Yes, He knows, but Jesus doesn’t tell us to hint around. Jesus tells us to ask. James said we have not because we ask not, or when we ask, we ask for the wrong things. The longer we walk with God, the more we will know the right kinds of things to ask for. We are to seek. What are we to seek? We never can go wrong when we seek His kingdom and His righteousness. When I pray, I seek His presence throughout the day. I seek wisdom. And then we knock. When we pray, we are looking to gain entrance into the throne room of God. We are knocking at the door trying to enter into God’s presence. And for us, He opens the door. He doesn’t ask us to wait. He doesn’t put out a sign that no one’s home. He answers and ushers us into His kingdom.
What was it that Jesus taught His disciples? Did He teach them a litany of magic words that, said in the right order and the right way, could work miracles in their lives and in the lives of others? No. He put prayer into a conversational engagement with God where we talk with Him about our needs and wants, and He reminds us about our commitment to living in His kingdom. For many, we stop praying after we give God our laundry list of items we want. Before God has a chance to answer, we shut Him off and head about our daily business. We treat God like an employee who just needs to be told what to do. Perhaps we need to go back to this idea of praying where we are seeking God; where we are desiring to grow closer to Him. We can’t manipulate God through prayer, that’s the real prayer blooper. We can grow closer to Him. So, knock and enter His Kingdom. Seek Him. Let God know your needs. That’s what He wants us to do.
Oh Lord, it’s easy to spend so much time thinking about what we need or want that we spend our time in prayer letting you know, down to the details and the websites. Help me to make prayer a conversation with You where more time is spent seeking You than things.
Daily Devotion by Bob James