Teach Us to Pray

As we welcome the late days of the spring season, I have been listening to the sound of the birds. Outside my office window, from the back porch at home, on walks across campus or in our neighborhood, I hear birds sing. Over the past few weeks, the singing of birds has provided me a sense of calm and rest. Over the weekend, the welcome sound of the birds was a gentle prompt to pray. As I listened to the birds and responded in prayer I was reminded of the words of Psalm 118:

 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!

Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say,“His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let those who fear the Lord say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Save us, we beseech you, O Lord! O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.

We bless you from the house of the Lord.

The Lord is God, and he has given us light.
Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar.

You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you.

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. (Psalm 118:1-2; 24-29)

The God who created the birds of the air and whose melody brought me a sense of rest also prompted me to call on God in prayer. God hears us when we call.

Lord, teach us to pray. This is what the disciples asked of Jesus. The disciples traveled with Jesus and had seen the effectiveness of prayer. They had also seen how Jesus took time away from the crowds to be alone with God in prayer. They hoped to model their teacher’s desire to be in relationship with his Father.  Even with their sincere request to Jesus, I imagine the disciples struggled on some level with prayer.

Prayer is not always easy. I would suggest that most of us at some point feel inadequate or even guilty when we think about prayer.  It may be a feeling that we do not pray enough, that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, and even when we do sit down to pray, we encounter a wandering mind. Or we struggle to find the words, and even when we have words we wonder if God really hears us.  As news about the pandemic clouds our days and rhythms, some days it feels challenging to know what to pray.

God longs for us to pray in whatever way we can. Prayer is an act of trust. May we trust that our loving God hears us, God is with us, and that God is at work. Lord, teach us to pray.