Many people would say that they don’t pray. But you do! You might not pray to God but ‘pray’ doesn’t necessarily mean asking God for something. It sounds archaic now, but “I pray thee” was once a common way of saying ‘I beg you’ or ‘please’. To pray was to make an earnest request of someone. “I pray thee, gentle mortal, sing again.” (Titania to Bottom.)
You and I have things that we long for – health, contentment, success in life, the appreciation of other people, certainty about the future, and to be loved by someone who matters to us.
And, unless we are in the depths of despair, we all think that we know who or what is likely to give us these things – wife, husband, parent, child, the government, a house improvement, an exam pass or a new club joined. These are some of the people or things we ‘pray’ to. We might not speak any word or prayer to them but we have an expectation that they will provide, we pin our hopes on them, we devote ourselves to them and we will be disappointed if they let us down. Or, if we think we are self-made, we will be angry at ourselves when we can’t answer our own prayers.
Who you pray to, or look to, reveals what you believe about ultimate reality. When a man prays to God in the name of Jesus, he is denying that any of the things he longs for come ultimately from the government, another person, a comfortable house or anything else in this world. He is denying that he himself can provide what he most wants. To pray like this is to reveal your conviction that the Father of our Lord Jesus is the creator and source of every good thing and ultimately the only one who can answer the prayer, and provide what you long for at the deepest level.
The presence of the church of Jesus Christ in the village raises a question – not ‘do you pray?’ but ‘who or what are you praying to, and can they deliver what you are hoping for?’