Saturday, November 13, 2004

What We Can Learn About God From Being Parents: Effective Prayer

“In your prayers do not babble…”
Matthew 6:7 (New Jerusalem Bible)

Anyone who has spent time with a toddler has experienced “babbling,” the repetition of the same phrase or request over and over again just for the sake of saying it. It’s not meant to annoy, and usually doesn’t; it just becomes background noise. We hear it, but that’s about it. It’s not effective communication, even though it feels good to the child.

But then there are the times when the toddler focuses and tries to convey a specific message. It may not be perfectly stated, but it stands in noticeable contrast to the chattering, or anything else going on right then, and gets your attention. And that’s true even if it’s something she’s said in the same words many times, like “I love you,” “daddy help me” or “me want milk.” Those focused communications stand out and get a response, even if they’re in garbled form, precisely becuase of their focused nature.

Our prayers fall into the same pattern. Some are mindlessly repeated without any real attention to what we’re saying. They can take the form of liturgy, song, or even private prayers. On the other hand, there are focused prayers intended to convey specific, individualized, thoughts that are real communication, even if we’ve said the same thing, in the same way, many times before (as in liturgy, song, or our private prayers) or if they're akwardly stated. It’s the focused, intentional, thought behind the words that makes all the difference.

(Images addressing what we can learn about God from being parents were posted September 17b, 17b, and 17c; November 13, 15, and 24; December 2, 2004 and January 2, February 18, April 25, August 9 and October 3 2005.
Images about prayer were posted September 17, 17a, and 17b; October 8 and 17, November 13 and 19, 2004 and May 27, 2005.)

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