Shaul (Paul) says that we should pray constantly. I talk to God a lot. I have gotten into the habit of praying to God in the morning, while I am driving to work. I used to have a long drive, so there was plenty of prayer time. Now I have the shortest commute to work since I was in the service and lived across the street, literally, from the base. But I still can pray while driving, and during the day, and at night, and every time I have a close call, or whenever I feel upset, or…well, you get the idea.
But is that respectful? I mean, is it respectful enough for the Lord of lords and King of kings?
I confess my prayers are not. I feel bad admitting to this, but I often will start in with a prayer and find myself wandering off in thought, leaving God “on hold” while I tangentially go off onto some other subject.
For instance, I will always pray that my children reconcile to me and to God, and that we can be mishpocha (family) again, centered on God. Then I think of how I can do something to make that happen, then I go off on explaining to them why I had to leave that marriage, then before I know it I am at work and the prayer time has devolved into “me” time.
I left God on hold while answering another call. That’s not very respectful.
I hate it when I do that, and I do that a lot. I mean, a whole lotsa times!
I believe that God is so compassionate and understanding that He is not insulted, but He is still God. He deserves better than that and I have to get better at being more respectful in my prayers.
Yeshua was asked by His Talmudim (students, or Disciples) how they should pray, and He told them how- read Matthew 6:9-16. That isn’t just a prayer, it is the template for all prayer.
We start by recognizing who and what God is; only after giving God the glory and honor He deserves can we then ask for ourselves. And when we ask for ourselves, we ask for only what we need to get by that day. This represents our faith and trust in God to always provide what we need. We shouldn’t ask for a week’s worth of manna because the amount He gives us is enough. It’s enough for today, and we should know and believe He will do the same, tomorrow.
Next we ask for forgiveness of our sins, which we should do before we intercede for anyone else. Just as the Cohen HaGadol (High Priest) made atonement for himself before he asked for forgiveness of the people, we should come to God for forgiveness, through Yeshua, so that when we ask God to help others we are coming before Him cleansed and pure.
Then we stick our necks out and literally put our salvation where our mouth is: we tell God that He should forgive us as we forgive others. This is also what Yeshua warns us about in verses 6:14-15. As we forgive, we will be forgiven. As we judge, we shall be judged. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, limb for limb. If we are not willing to forgive on Earth, God will not forgive us in heaven, and this is something that we should remind ourselves of every time we ask for forgiveness. That’s why not only does Yeshua tell us to incorporate it in every prayer, but He emphasized that point after He finished telling them how to pray. Believe it- if you cannot forgive, if you refuse to forgive, then you are not truly saved. You haven’t done T’Shuvah (turn from sin) , you haven’t allowed the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) into your heart, you haven’t held up your end of the bargain!
Salvation is free for the asking, but it is not guaranteed. That’s right- all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved: but getting salvation is not keeping salvation.
If you don’t show that you have truly turned from your sins, then you can speak the words all you like- it won’t help. God isn’t stupid, and if you don’t show in your actions, especially in your forgiveness of others, that you have turned from sin and are being obedient to God, then you haven’t really changed. Just speaking the words is not enough- you can’t talk your way into heaven- you have to bring an offering before the Lord.
God tells us a couple of times that we should not come before Him empty handed (look it up- you can find it easily in Exodus and Deuteronomy regarding the Festival of Unleavened Bread.) I am taking this past the literal meaning (the P’shat) and making a small Drash on it: when we come to God here on earth we should bring to Him something, such as unleavened bread, a sacrifice, first fruits- something that He has provided for us that we bring back the very best we have, as a thank offering to Him. The best, the very best thing we can offer to God is obedience. Therefore, since we can’t bring bread or lambs or fruit of the vine to Him when we come before Him at Judgement Day, we bring the fruit of our obedience. We bring before the Lord our good works, we bring our personal and financial sacrifices that we made in His service, we bring to God the forgiveness we have shown to others while we were alive. We bring to God what He wants- we bring the proof of our T’Shuvah.
If you don’t have something to bring before God when that time comes, don’t expect to get past the gates. At least, not the pearly ones.
We also ask God to protect us from temptation.
Finally, our prayers end where they started- recognizing the awesomeness of God.
I have been praying to God for nearly (or should I say, only) two decades- I was a late starter. And in that time I have digressed more often during my prayer than I care to admit to, but I confess it. I have to own my sin before I can give it away to God.
I constantly try to pray more respectfully, and I constantly end up asking God to forgive me when I digress. Sometimes, when I know my brain is off on a holiday, I will just thank God for everything and leave it at that, before I go off on a tangent.
Prayer is necessary, prayer should be constant, and constantly presented to God in a respectful manner.