"God is great, God is good. Let us thank Him for this food. Amen.”
For years, our family recited that same exact prayer we said before dinner every night. As kids, it was an easy one not just to say but to remember (although I did struggle as I got older to figure out whether or not “good” and “food” actually rhymed). But it wasn’t until I was in my early teen years that I began to wonder why we never went beyond it.
Why didn’t we ever switch it up? If God was so good and great, shouldn’t He deserve a little bit more than a repeated, rhyming shout out every night before dinner?
What is it about our prayer lives that leave us quick to pray a few words over our spaghetti that’s getting cold, but prevents us from spending quality time on our knees for friends who are sick or family members who don’t know Christ?
Is it wrong that it bothers me to think about how routine my prayer life has become before meals – but I’m slow to come before God with anxiety or fear?
In the New Testament, we see Jesus on several occasions leaving the crowds, secluding himself, and spending time in prayer with the Father. Sometimes we read accounts of what it was that He prayed – and others are left to the imagination.
But in John 17, we read what is known as the longest documented prayer that Jesus ever prayed (If you’re able, read John 17). It’s a prayer where Jesus might have prayed longer than that same lady in your prayer group who always needs to be cut off after she’s run out of requests or praises.
But the focus here is not the length of Jesus’ prayer – but the depth and urgency in which He prays for these things. We see in John 17 that prayer is far more than just an obligated utterance when we feel is appropriate, but a plead to God for the deepest desires of our hearts.
Jesus is pleading for believers to be united – for their joy to be full and complete – for His name to be glorified and known through their unity – and for their protection from the evil one. His desire for these things is rich and fills this entire chapter.
His prayers are genuine – and they’re from the heart of our Lord.
This past week I had to take a long, hard look at not just the frequency of my prayers – but the depth and posture of which I took when I came to approach God almighty in conversation. Were my prayers genuine? And not just the pre-meal rhyme type prayers that are blurted out before I eat – but also the ones where I’m praying for a student’s struggle with faith or a friend who’s son is battling cancer.
With time, it’s easy for our prayer life to become stale and redundant. But it’s important for us to remember that we are not just mumbling repeated words or memorized requests. Rather, we have the privilege of approaching our Heavenly Father with everything that’s on our heart. We can ask Him anything – knowing that we’re told to cast our cares on Him (Psalm 55:22) and wait for Him to sustain us. We can truly give thanks for our food – and at the same time pray for those who suffer daily without it. And we can ask that He be seen in our daily lives – especially as He strengthens us in our weaknesses and glorifies Himself through His work in our hearts.
• Colin Noonan serves as the Director of Youth Ministries at Mountain View Lutheran Church in Ahwatukee. Continue the conversation with him at firstname.lastname@example.org.