Today is National Day of Prayer in the United States. So as we all get together for our prayer meetings and community BBQs and potlucks as we always do for the National Day of Prayer... oh, what's that? You don't do any of those things? You didn't even know it was the National Day of Prayer? Huh...
All joking aside, it is not a shock to anyone in the church in the US that prayer is not only not emphasized, but it could be said that prayer is DE-emphasized in the US church. Prayer meetings are never thought of as "mandatory-gotta-get-there-for-that!" type meetings. If you do feel that way and take offense, do you think that is a common feeling concerning prayer meetings? Are they as attended as a main Sunday Morning Service?
Why is that? Why do we see prayer as an optional thing for most believers? Even in our discipleship, there is far more emphasis on reading the Bible than on prayer, though prayer will be a component. Do we strategize prayer? If someone asks for prayer, what do we do? How do we even pray for people? Do we talk about that, train that, make sure people know how to do it well so they can teach others to pray well? What does it mean to "pray well"?
There are so many things that can be said concerning prayer, but prayer at its essence is communing with the Father which was something practiced from the beginning of time (GEN 3:8). Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray in the sermon on the mount (MAT 6:9-13, LUK 11:2-4) where his example is not only not complex, it doesn't included intercession for others at all, so it cannot be regarded as exhaustive. However, that is the answer Jesus gives when asked.
Prayer is about a communing and relating to the God of the universe where he is acknowledged as such and we as human beings are honest about our place in the universe and our needs, both personal and communal.
When people share that they don't know how to pray, most of that could be explained as it being awkward to ask God for something when you've been a relative stranger and practical atheist for most of the day, week, month, year, decade, etc.
How should we pray on the National Day of Prayer?
I think a good place to start is to start. Really take a moment (and I challenge you to make it not before a meal) and pray. Commune with the God of the universe. Address him properly, share why it's awkward to pray, and once you're over that, talk to him about something that matters to you and then talk about something that matters to someone else. Talk to him like he is real, because he is, and then, do it again tomorrow. In my opinion, that's a great way to remember National Day of Prayer.
~ Nicolai Pedersen