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Jesus Kneeling

Lord, Teach Us to Pray

Jesus Kneeling

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.’ He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.’

I have recently been spotting blog posts, and have engaged in online and offline conversations about how people pray. These conversations started when I discovered that many people presumed something akin to: “I always thought prayer always had to be the same way. Get down on your knees, put your hands together, bow your head, close your eyes and talk, out loud, to God.”

So my first question is: how do you pray?

I have been fascinated by my conversations. I have wondered how widespread this to-pray-you-must-kneel-and-talk-aloud approach is? Who teaches this approach? Is this an approach taught to children – without any suggestion that a relationship grows and changes into adulthood?

The anecdotal understanding I now have is that this has been the way that children have been encouraged to pray, often having it modelled to them by an adult. But there has been no further catechesis to help the child/young person move into different forms of prayer.

My primary ministry is with young people who are taught, and modelled, and encouraged to experiment with a wide variety of methods of prayer, silent, aloud, imaginative, sung, with a collection of possible postures and gestures.

This website also offers a wide variety of ways of praying:
The Daily Office
Lectio Divina
Silent Prayer
The Eucharist
Daily Examen

Have you come across the one-way-to-pray approach that I have now encountered and described at the start of this post?
What do you think about this?
What way do you pray, and what different ways can you suggest that people try?

This is the first post in a series reflecting on the Lord’s Prayer.

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5 thoughts on “Lord, Teach Us to Pray”

  1. I never really met that kind of prayer “to-pray-you-must-kneel-and-talk-aloud”.

    In my family, it was usual that my grand-grand-pa conducted the prayer at the table and the evening prayer on the household. Once he died, they discontinued the group prayer. My grand-parents used to recite silently the Lord’s prayer and the Θεοτόκε Παρθένε (Byzantine version of Hail Mary) in the morning while washing their faces, and also at night after turning the light off.

    In seminary, the free-worded and aloud prayers were highly discouraged. My seminary fellows told me that their parents used to pray kneeling individually near their beds, either using a book or a rosary, but never with their own words.

    Now, as a couple, we use to pray mostly together (except for mattins). When we have kids, I hope I’ll have a good method to teach them the personal prayer, lest my grand-grand-pa’s story risks to be repeated.

  2. My Christian journey led me early on to some great and diverse resources for prayer — including the Daily Office from my Anglican parish, Brother Lawrence’s intimate conversation constantly recollecting God’s presence, Martin Luther’s use of the Lord’s Prayer as an outline of topics, and the Jesus Prayer. So I’ve never bought into the idea that there is just one way for Christians to pray, though it is clear that many many Christians only KNOW one way!

    I try to help my students and those I guide on retreats find ways of prayer that fit their personalities and their current needs for growth in faith and discipleship. This is what lies behind the book Claudia so kindly linked to in her comment above– Kneeling with Giants: Learning to Pray with History’s Best Teachers, InterVarsity 2012.

    Glad you are doing this series! I look forward to seeing how it unfolds.



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