Many years ago, like more than a quarter of a century ago, I started to learn the art of fly fishing. In fact, I also got involved in the hobby of making flies as I was convinced that there could be nothing greater than catching a fish on a fly that I had tied myself. I never fished that much but I really enjoyed the creative aspect of tying. There was a fisherman I knew who agreed to teach me how to make flies and I invested in the various materials and tools I would need to become proficient in the craft.
I am left handed and so I had to order a number of the tools that could accommodate the way I was naturally wired. I attended classes and learned a particular way to tie that has stayed with me to this day. The thread is put on a certain way, the various feathers and hairs had a specific way to be tied on the hooks and there was a protocol for the order of things and how they were attached. It was rather rigid and didn’t leave much room for interpretation from me.
I eventually branched out and started tying fly “art.” I used standard hooks but then dressed them up to make people, scenes and at Christmas, I even created trees that included handmade “ornaments” such as candy canes. Of course, all this was done in miniature and many times the total creation wasn’t any more than several inches tall when finished. I loved doing that kind of thing.
But every time I went back to tying flies for the purpose of fishing, I fell back into my rigid patterns that I had been taught so many years earlier. And then, as our business grew and the kids got involved in school activities, I stopped working on my hobby and although I kept everything, I really wasn’t active in making flies or even creating art.
Lately, as I have had more time on my hands, I decided to get back into tying flies. I sat down at my tying bench and was amazed at how much I had forgotten. But, like riding a bicycle, it came back pretty quickly. All the things I had learned in the past came flooding back and the joy that I had experienced in my earlier days returned. But I determined that I needed a refresher course and so I signed up for a class – the first one in many years.
In fact, I have now been through two refresher courses and I am still processing what I learned. That’s because I was taught one way and now, years later, the materials and manner of tying have changed. Couple that with an incredibly creative instructor and suddenly, all the rules I learned went right out the window! There is no longer only one right way to do something. In fact, there are only a few basic things you need to know and from there, you have creative license to do whatever you want. On one hand, I love the freedom but in some ways I am still limited by the memories of the things I learned in my younger days. In other words, I am having trouble breaking out of the mold and I long for the freedom to follow my heart and not be bound by as many restrictions as I seem to remember. I’ll get there, but it will take some time…
Many people have similar issues with their faith and the way that they pray to God. They have pre-conceived notions, usually from their childhoods, of the specific way that they must pray, or attend church, or sing. Many folks have been taught that prayer must follow an order of adoration, followed by confession, then thanksgiving and finally supplication – the presentation of requests for yourself and others. While this is certainly one way to pray, God clearly gives us latitude in the way we are to honor Him.
For starters, we should pray with dignity and respect to the Lord and His Son, but aside from that, we have great freedom in how we approach prayer. We can be as creative as we wish and while I would encourage you to be sincere and authentic with your prayers, because God already knows your thoughts anyway, there are all sorts of prayers.
You can be on your knees for hours, or shoot up an arrow prayer or breath prayer that is only several words long. It can be in the middle of devotions or in your car on the way to work. You can be alone, or in a large crowd. The possibilities are almost endless and God honors prayer.
The verse for this evening gives us good advise about prayer and a fool proof formula for remaining close to Him. We are told in Matthew 6:5-7, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” There you have it – basic rules and the permission to make prayer your own.
My encouragement this evening is that God honors prayer. My prayer for each of us is that we will pray with dignity and respect; and that we won’t just pray for the purpose of hearing ourselves talk. It’s much more important than that! Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…