Like the discipline of doing nothing, the discipline of praying simply requires a great deal of faith. It is difficult to pray simple words, phrases, or nothing at all and believe that our Father is intimately attuned to our needs, that he completely hears and fully understands. I have found that the more simply I am able to pray, the more I prove God to be my Father and me to be his beloved child.
When our son, Cole, was learning how to walk, I was sitting in the living room early one morning (attempting) to pray. I was stumbling over my words, upset at myself for having such a hard time, when all of a sudden I heard the pitter-patter of little feet sprinting in the darkness down the hall. Cole had somehow climbed out of his crib and was peeking at me from around the corner. I smiled and acknowledged his presence while motioning for him to climb onto my lap. As we sat together in the dark, Cole’s attention turned toward my bagel, sitting on the coffee table in front of me. Without saying a word, Cole pointed to the bagel, then pointed to his open mouth. Nothing else needed to be “said.” I knew exactly what my son wanted. I nodded playfully, leaned over, and handed Cole my bagel. He chuckled, laid back in my arms, and took a bite.
That’s the type of prayer God longs for; that is simple prayer.
Since that morning, I have made a practice of identifying certain wants, needs, and desires, and internally “pointing” at them throughout the day. Usually I verbalize these to God as well, but there have been days where I’ve been too exhausted, stressed, or downright lazy to say anything. In those moments, I’ll envision whatever it is I need to offer to God, and like Cole, I’ll silently “point” to it in my spirit. There have been times I’ve sat through entire business meetings with an imaginary finger pointing directly at whatever was causing me anxiety, fear, or joy that day. And every time (whether I realize it or not), the Father nods his head and says, “I know. I’ve got it.”
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Just because prayer is simple, does not mean it is not profound. I had a Catholic friend say to me once, “David, I’ve found that the hardest prayer to pray and believe is, ‘In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.’” In the Orthodox tradition, the “Jesus Prayer” is the way many practice the presence of God: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Such prayers of the heart can be said throughout the day. Many make these prayers a part of their breathing: They inhale while praying, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,” and as they exhale, they pray, “Have mercy on me, a sinner.” Other prayers of the heart may come directly from the Scriptures, or they may simply reinforce the truth of Scripture. Some of these simple prayers include:
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain.
In you I live move and have my being.
Nothing is at stake. I have nothing to prove. I am yours.
Abba, I belong to you.
While I have a deep appreciation for beautifully worded prayers (and attempt to express them on occasion), I’m convinced that the prayer the Father longs for is one of childlike simplicity flowing from a heart of confidence and trust in the One who knows us better and more intimately than we know ourselves. Don’t fall for the nonsense. Your Father already knows what you need before you ask. Therefore, pray simply.
Dave Hickman is the author of Closer Than Close: Awakening to the Freedom of Your Union with Christ.