"That's how it's done," Loola says from her garden chair. She's watching you remove weeds with your trusty hand shovel. The place that has been wild for so long is beginning to look respectable. For weeks now, you've removed weeds with careful yet thorough digging. "What a difference weeding makes!”
"Yeah. It's starting to look like I know what I'm doing," you say as you stand and step next to Loola's honorary garden side seat. You grab your water bottle as she reaches out with her coffee cup to clink it against yours. When you reach out, she places her palm on the back of your hand.
"Honey, I'm proud of you," she says, looking up. Her face is rimmed in morning sun.
“Thanks, Aunt Loola.”
"The beauty of transformation," she says as she looks back toward the garden. You nod, but you can't take your eyes off the little fruit tree that stands proudly at the center of a weed-free patch of soil.
"Hey, look!” You point. Nearly leaping, you spring toward the little tree and kneel before it. Your eyes grow to the size of apricots as you investigate one of the sprigs that shoots from the tiny trunk. "It's a bud!" You are virtually shouting now. "It's growing fruit." You look back to Aunt Loola, who hasn't risen from her seat, though a wide smile is stretched across her face.
“The transformation has begun," she says.
"Now I can just sit back and let the fruit roll in, right?" you say, with an ironic smile.
“Don’t get cocky.”
"Come on," you say. "It's finally working; I could take at least a little weeding vacation, couldn't I?"
"One-half ounce of success, and you're ready to step off the scale."
“That’s not a saying,” you argue.
"Well, I said it, didn't I?" she says. She points at the slim little branch with its burgeoning sprout. "Can you eat that fruit?"
"Well, I could but—" you begin to say, but Loola cuts you off.
"No, no, no. Does that fruit qualify as abundant?" she rephrases.
"No," you say with a laugh. By now, you have gotten good at sensing when one of Aunt Loola's lectures is about to begin. Now is one of those times.
“If that tree doesn’t transform, you’ll never taste a single mouthful of fruit. This is the beginning of the metamorphosis, but it’s far from the end. Every weed you pull allows that tree to transform into what it needs to be to accomplish its grand gardening goal.”
“Yeah. I know,” you say. “I just like to see you get all steamed up and speechful.”
“You’re taunting an old woman, you know? There’s probably a law against that,” she says. “What’s the goal?”
“Fruit, abundant fruit.”
“And what does that tree need to do to achieve it?" she asks.
“And how can you help it transform?”
"Keep weeding like the Prison guards' chain gang gardaner."
“That’s right,” she says as she slaps the arm of her garden chair. “But there’s more to it than that.”
“So, what do I need to do?" you ask.
“It’s good to remove weeds that have already come up, but we also need to prevent new weeds from taking root.”
“And how do we do that?”
“It’s a war of attrition. We have to lay siege to the soil,” she says.
“I don’t have a catapult.”
“Mulch will do it,” she explains.
“Oh, ok. I don’t have any mulch, either” you say, but then add, “I could go get some from the store when I go—”
“Nah, no need,” she says. “You’ve got mulch right here.” She points to the ground.
“Uh— I don’t get it.”
“What does mulch do?" she asks.
“It’ lays siege to the soil, of course,” she picks up a handful of leaves from the ground. “It blocks the sun from hitting the soil so that no new weeds can grow.”
"So, I can just put a layer of leaves on the soil, and then I don't have to weed anymore?"
“I’m reluctant to admit that it actually will make your job a little easier?" she says. "But there will still be some weeds that get through. There’s no release from this chain gang, Honey.”
Many people feel intimidated by prayer. They aren't sure how to start. In this section, I'd like to use Jesus' teaching on prayer as a beginner's guide. He tells us how to do it and even makes it easy.
I bet you know the Lord's Prayer. It starts off, "Our Father, who art in Heaven. Hallowed be thy name…" You know it, right? Many people do. I have it memorized quite by accident. Strangely, the version I accidentally memorized is in the King James Version, but I hardly have ever used King James. This means that somewhere in my childhood, I learned the Lord's Prayer, not from my church or personal prayer time, but from some other source. I'm pretty sure it came by hearing it before sporting events, reinforced by being quoted in moves and TV shows, back when prayer could still be heard in popular entertainment.
Let’s take a quick look at how Jesus says we should use his prayer template. First, He says that His prayer model is to be used in private.1 Second, His example prayer isn't to be repeated verbatim over and over again.2 We’re supposed to use His prayer’s ideas, but not the exact words. Third, the praying person is to pray this way on a daily basis.3 We are supposed to learn His model prayer and then use it as a template for our own private, daily prayer time.
Certainly, an entire book could be written on how to pray according to Jesus' model, but I'd like to keep this simple; so simple, in fact, that you can pray according to Jesus' model right now. If you're comfortable with it, you might try based on the breakdown below.
PRAYER ACCORDING TO JESUS
“Our Father in heaven…”
Pray to God, as your father, remembering the assurance you have as His child.
"Hallowed be Your name…."
Praise the Lord with some personal expressions of worship.
"Your kingdom come…."
Pray for the Lord’s return and the establishment of his Heavenly Kingdom to come.
"Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven…."
Pray about some ways the Lord's will could be done and how you can take part in bringing that about.
"Give us this day our daily bread…."
Pray that the Lord would provide for the needs you have today and in the near future.
"And forgive us our sins…."
Confess any known sins and ask the Lord for forgiveness.
"As we forgive those who have sinned against us…."
Ask the Lord for the strength to forgive those who have wronged you, and commit to doing so.
"And do not lead us into temptation…."
Pray that the Lord would help you avoid potential temptations, known and unknown.
"But deliver us from evil…."
Ask the Lord to help you escape without sinning from any temptation you may fall into today.
“For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.”
Acknowledge that God has the power to accomplish all you’ve asked Him for, and thank Him for what he will do.
Conclude by saying Amen.
This method of prayer has been a life-changer for me. There are days when I pray through this model in a minute or two. There are days when I'm in a deeper spiritual need, and I will spend more time on this. I generally pray through this model in the morning. Then throughout the day, I may say little prayers about specific things. I try to at least pray through the Lord's template once a day, but there are certainly days that I miss doing it.
When I skip or more often realize that my busyness has kept me from praying, I often recognize a difference in the amount of patience, joy, peace, and love I feel during the day. There is no quota to fill with this. Instead, we should view Jesus' template as one of the greatest tools we have in keeping our minds focused on Him.
I used to feel like prayer was a mystery. There are still days when it's hard or laborious, but at least I know what I'm supposed to do. If I don't do it, it's not because I'm confused. It's just because I'm unfocused. That's why I love praying according to Jesus' template because it takes the guesswork out of my entire prayer life. Jesus told me to pray in this manner, so I do it. On top of that, I know that even if I do it wrong, the Spirit intervenes on my behalf, filling in the gaps that I miss.4
I think the simplicity is beautiful. It might just be why Jesus said, the load I give you to carry is light.5 He made it easy. He made it simple. Not only did He tell us how to pray, but He placed His Spirit inside of us to help us every step of the way.
What's the result of an active prayer practice? Mindset shift, which leads to transformation, which leads to abundant life. Remember, the ultimate goal is not to pray a certain amount every day. The ultimate goal is to have a life filled with the fruits of the Spirit. When you pray to the Lord, it sets your mindset in the right place. The result is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.6
Pray as you eagerly await these Spiritual fruits to grow in your life.
1 Matthew 6:5-6
2 Matthew 6:7-8
3 Matthew 6:11
4 Romans 8:26-27
5 Matthew 11:30
6 Galatians 5:22-23