Wouldn’t it be nice to have a drive through for prayer? It would be a simple modern day way to handle our conversations with God. The other day my husband and I were out running errands all morning and we were famished by lunch time. So we decided to splurge a little and stop at Burger King for lunch. As we came up to the drive through window, we gave them the order. There was no real conversation. We heard, “Welcome to Burger King, may I take your order”. We gave them our order and he told us the price and to pull up to the next window. We gave them the money and they gave us our order. But wouldn’t it be nice if prayer function that way? Wouldn’t be nice if we could place our prayer with God drive up to the next window and get our request or answer? Well unfortunately, or is it fortunately, it doesn’t happen that way.
So how do we live a prayerful life? Isn’t prayer just a way to ask God for things? You know a fancy way to let God know what we want in life and how we want it to end up? (By the way God, I still haven’t gotten that winning lottery ticket.) And what do we do with the silence that always seems to come in response? The silence that seems to always be the answer? I am reminded that we need to consider the function of prayer and really assess if we understand what and how to use prayer.
Soren Kierkegaard, a Danish theologian from the 19th Century, wrote “The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays” in his article entitled “Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing; spiritual preparation for the office of confession”. Which begs us to question how often we still use prayer as a way to influence God, to tell God how we want things to be and when to do them. Prayer is not a request line. There is no such thing as drive through prayer. And nor should there be.
Prayer should be something that shapes our lives, strengthens our souls, and helps us to grapple with the real questions, the real struggles that truly impact our lives. Prayer is intended to slow us down in life. It is a time to breathe and to search for God’s will, to search for God’s direction. We shouldn’t be praying because it is expected of us, but we should pray because we are in search of something. Kierkegaard goes on to say that “Praying is not listening to one’s self speak but is about becoming silent, and in becoming silent, waiting, until the one who prays hears God”. Prayer is just as much about the moments of silence as it is about what we say and how we seek.
Today we heard from the Psalms, the psalms were prayers and songs. Today’s Psalm was a prayer in song form like many of our hymns today. It is a prayer of praise and not request. It shows one of the many reasons to pray. It is a prayer of thanksgiving and recognition of the work of God as it had been revealed to them, which means they spent just as much time silently searching, looking for God’s influence, seeing how God answers prayers of supplication.
Prayer is a unique part of Christian life in that it is an imperative part of our faith that we pray for others. That we consider others, for collectively we appeal to our common God on behalf of all peoples, nations, and the world. Praying is not only about talking at God but listening for God. It is about taking the time to look inward, outward, and to become aware of the presence of the Holy. The author of 1Timothy wrote, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings should be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity”.
Our scriptures give us guidance about prayer. They tell us who to pray for and how to pray. Prayer is like a conversation which is the hardest thing to remember. It is too easy to see it was a one way request line. We need to remember to listen for God. We need to remember that just as our lives have troubles, wants, desires, and questions, so does the world. Every week you see our prayer list printed in the bulletin and it is printed for a reason, not just for me to read on Sunday mornings. But it is there to remind us of those who are in need of prayer, those who might be experiencing hard times, those who may be grappling with questions, those who may be experiencing loss. We should be including them in our daily prayers.
Prayer isn’t hard to do in theory. But there are still questions as to when, how and why. Many people have contemplated prayer and how and when and for whom to do it from theologians, to pastors, to apostles, to lay people like yourselves. Even Jesus had advice about prayer. We don’t need special words just genuine concern, compassion, and faith. Knowing that God is concerned with individuals and active in our world. We pray for others because we believe that with all of differences one thing will always unite us: our common creator, our common God.
So this week, let us remember to pray. Let us remember to lift up those who may be in need, our leaders who make decisions for tomorrow, our countries, our world, and ourselves. Remember the writings of Kierkegaard who advised us not to look to influence God imploring him to act in certain ways, but rather to seek spiritual enlightenment for ourselves and others. To use prayer to seek a new depth of compassion for the world and all who live in it. As we go into another week, let us look towards God, let us pray and let us listen looking for his presence. Let’s join together in raising our voices so that others might know compassion, relief, and guidance. So that others in our world might come to feel the love and support present in a community who cares. Our call in life is to join in the service of others through prayer, outreach, and community. Let us answer that call first by seeking God.
 Kierkegaard, Soren. “Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing; spiritual preparation for the office of confession”, 1956.
 Kierkegaard, Soren. “Without Authority”, 1997.
 1 Timothy 2: 1-2, NRSV.