Years ago, when the kids were still little, we were having dinner with some dear friends. When our young families would get together the usual method of serving dinner was buffet style. All the food would be placed on the table and everyone would grab a plate and serve themselves. This particular evening I noticed something for the first time. As we were heading toward the buffet, plates in hand, one of our friends would “lead” us in prayer of thanksgiving.
“Let’s bless our food”, they said. Then they began…”Dear heavenly Father, we thank You for this food we are about to eat, Amen!” I just happened to look up quick enough following the “amen” to see it….I wish I had a snap shot of the scene before me at that moment.
My entire family stood in the center of the room, frozen like plate carrying statues, while their family was already half way down the buffet with plates partially filled. Hmmmmm. That’s when it hit me. Our charismatic Christian friends have always lived their faith in an active way, never relegating time with God to quiet moments alone. For them, praying while walking to the table was a very normal way of interacting with God. For my family the mere start of the phrase, “Dear heavenly Father” was enough to make us stop, close our eyes and bow our heads, like some kind of spiritual freeze tag! I would jokingly accuse them of using this difference to beat us to the food.
Eventually, God placed even more examples in my life which would influence how I pray.
* A sister-in-law who was always quick to encourage prayer when I shared my worries, her sincerity and tender heart always palpable in her words.
* A coworker, who fond me sobbing in the break room, simply stopping to place a hand on my shoulder as she spoke a prayer into my ear for my comfort and courage.
* A school teacher who showed me how to pray for my students, before I even met them. Each year I would stand by each desk in the empty morning hours of the first day of classes, and quietly pray out loud for the young person who would inhabit it that year.
* Friends who not only said they would be praying for me, but actually called me to pray with me in a crisis.
* Friends who decided to pray for me nightly when I was facing surgery, and felt lead to call and share with me the prayer they would say each evening. This odd phone call would be impactful in ways they could never have foreseen. You see, while others prayed for my health and healing, their entire scripted prayer was for my peace. At the time I did not realize my lack of peace about the impending procedure. That night I prayed differently, and I can testify throughout that time in my life, I knew the “peace that surpasses all comprehension” spoken of in Philippians 4:6 & 7.
I realize that when I pray, I am praying to a Holy God. He deserves reverence and honor. Sometimes I feel I cannot bow low enough. I have been to that place in my life when I agonized about my sin nature, felt out of control of life’s circumstances, and desperately needing God, yet feeling unworthy to approach Him in prayer. On that occasion I did not just bow my head, I bowed my heart, my head, my knees, my toes and fell on the floor as I called out to Him, My Comforter.
There is nothing wrong with quiet, reverent, knee bent, head bowed prayer. We are told in Matthew 6, that we are not to pray for publicity sake,….but there is something wrong with feeling unworthy. You see, we all are saved by GRACE. I can come before God in prayer, not because I deserve to, but because He forgives me and sees me through the love of His son Jesus. God sees me as forgiven.
He makes us worthy, and in this we find freedom from being imperfect. We can come before Him in prayer, to praise Him, seek Him, request of Him and worship Him…out loud or quietly, in church or in our home, in a hospital, over the phone, at the side of someone hurting, when sharing burdens with friends, and Yes, even while walking up to the buffet table!