Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” Luke 11.1
Many Christians are, in my experience, almost embarrassed to ask God for blessing. We’ll ask for forgiveness if we’re feeling bad, and help if we’re feeling desperate - but there’s a reluctance to ask for what we need day by day - the blessings in the ordinary. Perhaps it is because we don’t see God as a kind of Divine vending machine, prayers in, blessings out, and wouldn’t want to fall into such a reductionist view of God. Perhaps it is because we feel self conscious asking for things for ourselves. Perhaps it is because we feel that we are less important than others, or less deserving.
Prayer is not about ‘getting stuff’ from God. It is, however, an expression of the deepest longing of our heart. In praying for ourselves, for blessing, we aren’t seeing God as a Divine wish-granter, but opening ourselves to the life and the will of God. Implicit in our prayers of blessing is a hope that we learn - to quote St Paul - to be content in all circumstances. We seek a blessing that we might know ourselves blessed and pass that blessing, that goodness, that sense of life and wholeness, on to others.
And besides, when Jesus was asked by his friends to teach them how to pray he laid out a pattern of prayer for everyone to use - one that involves praising God, seeking God’s will, asking for the necessities of every day, seeking forgiveness and the grace to be forgiving, asking for strength to face trials, and offering ourselves to the way which the Divine leads. We call this ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ and it is a prayer seeking to bless God, to receive blessing, and to share that blessing with others.
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Matthew 6.9-13