In journalism classes they used to teach that in every story you must be aware of the five W's; who, what, where, when, and why. I was reminded of that recently when I had to examine my own prayer life. My sister faced a serious health decision and I wasn't having much success in helping her. Finally I remembered that God was the answer and once I turned to Him, a solution presented itself.
Too often I forget the importance of prayer. I'm sure that, like many, I have felt that prayer should be reserved for church and maybe before meals and at bed time. Of course when there is a crises in my life I feel the need to pray like never before.
Considering my need for prayer I felt it might be a good idea to look at it with a reporter's eye. Who should I pray to? What am I to pray about? Where should I pray? When should I pray? Why should I pray?
It should seem obvious "Who" I am praying to, God Himself. That should give me pause as this is not dialing 411 for information or going to the service center at WalMart for help. I am going to the Top. This is what God wants me to do. He wants us all to communicate directly to Him. He always listens. You may remember communications officer Uhura on the classic Star Trek telling the captain, "All hailing frequencies open, sir." God doesn't depend upon intermediaries, our communication with Him is direct.
There is something I too often forget in my prayers. I neglect the good things that have happened to me, my blessings, and especially the greatest gift of all, the sacrifice and salvation given me through Jesus Christ. When Jesus taught His disciples how to pray He illustrated that first we are praying to God our Father and secondly, that His name is holy. In praying I should never forget the importance of praising God and thanking our Father.
"What" I pray about is a broad area. I know that when I or a loved one experiences a crisis that would be a logical request. Prayers for others are important and effective. We can pray for individuals, groups, organizations, and nations. God hears and understands every request.
Knowing this makes me often very shy when it comes to praying about what we consider "little things." Does God disregard what some might consider selfish motivation? "Lord, please let them like my work enough so I can get a good film role." "Lord, please let this traffic move faster so I can get home on time." "Lord, let me make this putt or goal." God understands those prayers and where I are coming from better than I do myself. It is a part of me and He loves me. I am recognizing that He is in charge of all things and with me always, even when I do not get that role, not get home on time, or miss the putt or goal. He is a loving God who wants us to bring Him all our desires, hopes, dreams, concerns, and pains no matter how small. He hears all our pleas and I don't need Uhura on the U.S.S. Enterprise to patch me in to Him. That is what the Holy Spirit automatically does for me.
"Where" and "when" to pray is not a matter of scripting. I need not confine myself to church, the dinner table, or the bed side. Prayers should be continual. Since I have established that God is always with me, then like when with a friend I should feel free to talk with Him. Too often I forget that He is ever-present and all-knowing. This doesn't mean I don't need to be in church or a Bible study group. I need the fellowship of other Christians so that we may nourish each other. In the secular world people should be able to see a reflection of my relationship with Jesus. Often how I live, deal with problems, and interact with other people will do more to spread the Good News than anything that I can write or say.
In film and on stage they "mark" where you are to stand and where to move for effectiveness in handling a scene. I should let God be my director and He will make those marks for me.
I come full circle when I get to "why". There are countless documented cases where prayer has had miraculous results. This certainly has happened in my own life. I may not always get all that I pray for, but in some context all prayers are answered. I cannot explain how that works, but sometimes it takes a lifetime before one can seen the results of a particular prayer and I will have to wait for Heaven before I'll see what it is all about. C. S. Lewis has said that once in Heaven we'll sigh, "So that's what it was all about." I should always be aware that prayer is subject to His will.
The long term power of prayer was illustrated by Dr. Robert Schuller. Prayer can be never ending, such is its power. For example when parents prayed for our welfare as children, those prayers are still interacting and influencing our lives.
C. S. Lewis made an interesting analogy about prayers. He described how in occupied Europe, during World War II, there would be lone freedom fighters who would use short wave radios to signal the outside world with requests for help. Lewis saw prayer as our "radio signals" to God from inside a secularist occupied world.
Prayer is communication. It is my communication with God and one thing I cannot afford to neglect.