It’s hard to pray.

It’s hard enough for many of us to make an honest request to a friend we trust for something we truly need. But when the request gets labeled “praying” and the friend is termed “God,” things often get very tangled up.  You’ve heard the contorted syntax, formulaic phrases, meaningless repetition, vague nonrequests, pious tones of voice, and air of confusion. If you talked to your friends and family that way, they’d think you’d lost your mind! But you’ve probably talked that way to God. You’ve known people who treat prayer like a rabbit’s foot for warding off bad luck and bringing goodies. You’ve known people who feel guilty because their quantity of prayer fails to meet some presumed standard. Maybe you are one of those people.

Prayer—it tends to become a production and a problem.

Life—it’s always a production and a problem. You cycle through your to-do list, your anxieties, distractions, pressures, pleasures, and irritants.

God—he’s there, somewhere, sometimes.

Somehow those two problematic productions and the Lord of heaven and earth don’t all get on the same page very often.

But prayer isn’t meant to be a production or a problem. And God is here, now. Prayer is meant to be the conversation where your life and your God meet.

A praying life is an oddly normal way to live. The best our world has to offer is to teach you how to talk to yourself. Change what you tell yourself, and your feelings about what happened will change. Change your self-talk, and how you feel about yourself will change. Talk yourself out of getting upset about what you can’t change. Do something constructive about what you can change. Those are the world’s best efforts. It’s a familiar but abnormal way to live.

But Jesus lives and teaches something different. What he does—and helps you do—is unfamiliar but normal. It’s human and it’s humane: how life’s meant to be. He teaches you how to stop talking to yourself. He shows how to stop making prayer into a production. Jesus teaches you to start talking to your father—to “my Father and your Father” (John 20:17), as he put it to Mary from Magdala. He shows you how to start talking with the God who rules the world, who has freely chosen to take your best interests to heart.

Talking life over with this on-scene God is the sort of conversation worth calling “prayer.”   You find several hundred examples in the Bible….. The Bible’s prayers traffic in both daily life and the real God. They bring real troubles and need to a God who really listens. They never seem like a production. They sound and feel real because they are real. By seeing how life and God weave together, you’ll discover the joy of living as God’s child, experiencing the adventure of walking closely with your Father and good Shepherd.

–David Powlison