Prayer for Beginners

Popular films have often done the best job of depicting the awkwardness of prayer for novices. One such classic prayer scene happens in Meet the Parents, as Greg Focker is asked to pray a blessing over a meal and stumbles through a meandering maze of words: “O dear God, thank you. You are such a good God … to us. A kind and gentle and accommodating God. And we thank you, O sweet, sweet Lord of hosts for the smörgåsbord you have so aptly lain at our table this day, and each day … by day. Day by day … by day, O dear Lord, three things we pray: to love thee more dearly, to see thee more clearly, to follow thee more nearly day by day … by day. Amen” (Meet the Parents, directed by Jay Roach [Universal City, CA: Universal Pictures, 2000]). View the scene (through 1:45) here: In any case, the point is that we’re not alone. N. T. Wright names the problem when he writes, “There is good scriptural warrant for finding prayer puzzling and mysterious. St. Paul, in a famous passage, says that ‘we don’t know how to pray or what to pray for, as we ought.’ … That may be humbling but it should also be encouraging” (N. T. Wright, The Lord and His Prayer [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996], xii).