A Prayer that Teaches


Though being asked to talk to someone is not a complicated invitation, prayer is not your average conversation. Talking to God, who is well-acquainted with our thoughts before they are even introduced to us, can be intimidating (Psalm 94.11). Finding ourselves at a loss for words in the presence of the one called the Word is understandable (John 1:1). Still, there are those who speak without reverence and as if their words create reality.

However, Thomas R. Kelly puts our conversation and thereby our relationship with God in perspective in his book The Testament of Devotion where he writes, “In this humanistic age, we suppose man is the initiator and God is the responder. But, the living Christ within us is the initiator and we are the responders.” So, if we are wondering who spoke first, God or us, then the answer is always God.

We speak to God because God first spoke to us. God made the first move, sending a message to us through Jesus Christ. We desire a conversation and thereby a relationship with God because God sent an invitation. We are living in response to God.

Yet, while everyone is invited to pray, not everyone can do it. And before you begin to pat yourself on the back after a quick self-evaluation or assume that you don’t need a lesson in praying, let me remind you that the disciples asked to be taught. Luke records, “Jesus was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples’” (Luke 11:1). It seems that one of the disciples had been voted spokesperson for the group because he does not say, “Teach me,” but “Teach us.”

Rather than close their eyes and fumble around their mouths for words, they asked Jesus to tell them what to say. And he did. We call it the Lord’s Prayer and many churches recite it when serving the Lord’s Supper. But, the lesson in prayer does not stop there.

As we shared communion this past Sunday at my church, these words revealed new meaning: “For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” With the election season coming to an end, I heard these words differently. Jesus is giving us his response to our reality.

It is not to be routinely recited but we are repeating after Jesus, who says the kingdom, the empire, the country belongs to him. Jesus says the power—without political party affiliation, campaign, or votes—belongs to him. Jesus says the glory, honor, and praise belong to him always and without question. His prayer teaches us to speak from the Reality of realities. Jesus does not come in red or blue. He is not a political deity who panders to voters. Instead, his gospel reminds us that he came in search of conversation and relationship, so much so that he will teach us what to say. So, I’m with him.

smcneillReverend Starlette Thomas* is an associate pastor at Village Baptist Church in Bowie, Maryland and the Minister to Empower Congregations at the D.C. Baptist Convention. She writes on the social construct of race and the practice of faith at www.racelessgospel.com. Her hobbies include reading, writing, and Starbucks.

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