Prayer, Plain and Simple

Prayer, Plain and Simple

Prayer is…

God is teaching me to talk. Like a parent patiently listening and answering a stumbling and fumbling 18 month old child who is just learning the ropes of human language, God sitts with me as I bumble my way through the process of learning to communicate. It’s a slow process, learning the ropes in this spiritual world of words, the ones I’ll be using for the next million years. I’m just a toddler in this matter of prayer. But God is patient, and actually completely delighted with the fits and starts of my first efforts. After all I’ve only been at this for 45 years or so.



Here’s an excerpt from my book, “Six Prayers God Always Answers” about this simplicity of prayer as a dialog with God

Prayer is a conversation with God.


Real prayer has the same elements as a real conversation–bold questions, bursts of emotion, and room for silence. Think of the times you have real honest-to-goodness conversations with those you love. They can happen at anytime, when your teenager comes home from school, over the dinner table, in bed with your spouse, or in the middle of the night when your toddler wakes up from a nightmare. Conversation isn’t rehearsed; it just bursts forth as a response to the situation.



Ellie bounces into the kitchen where her mom and dad are finishing their dinner. “Can I go to a friend’s house tonight and take the car?”

“Whose house?” asks her mother.

“What time will you be home?” asks her father.

“I’m just going to Sarah’s, I’ll be home by ten.”

“Is anyone else going with you?” asks Mom.


“No, just me, but Cindy’s meeting us there.”

“Is there gas in the car?” Dad asks.

“I’ll check,” she says and runs out the door. A few minutes later she’s back in the kitchen with a report that the gauge is almost on “E.”

Her dad hands her some cash, tells her he loves her, and asks her to be careful driving.


There is no formal presentation to this encounter. Neither party carefully planned their words. Ellie, in a hurry to get to her friend’s house asked the most direct question she could. Everything else that took place in the exchange was a result of that first question.



Ellie’s conversation wasn’t self-conscious or insecure.


Prayer shouldn’t be either. We don’t carefully calculate our words into some sort of exploitive formula, instead we’re entirely focused on the person we’re speaking to and our responses, as well as theirs.


Good prayer is like talking with our child. We’re more interested in hearing what they’ve said or how they’re reacting to what we’ve said than we are in carefully selecting our words.

Question:  When have you had a “conversation” with God, and experienced prayer as an exchange? Talk about that…


  • Agust

    This is good Mark – keep it up!
    Grace and peace from Iceland – Agust

  • Nancy Roberts

    You’ve illustrated what prayer should really be. I praise God when I feel good, and I should do it more often. I thank you for the reminder to let my prayers be more natural. I never thought about how self conscious sounding prayers can actually sound. Why is that so? The model of how a prayer is done is in each religious order. But I have used the Christian model, “Lord’s Prayer” for many years. It is being studied now as part of our worship at my church. Thanks, for the insight. Nancy.

  • SuzanneWA

    In my mind, I talk to God quite often. The longest and most heart-felt prayers, come in the middle of the night when I’m hospitalized and just pour out my heart in the darkness, to God. I talk to him as a beloved friend, who hears EVERY word and every nuance. I ask, I beseech, I declare His Glory in my life, and I seek His hand in the ministrations of the medical staff. But more than anything, I just let my words flow, and I am comforted.

  • V. Philip Abraham

    Though I have been teaching and guiding Sunday school children in India for many years I often get butterflies in my stomach when asked to lead the church congregation in prayer. But when I pray before the children or in small groups I don’t have this problem. In fact I guide and encourage children to lead in the class in prayer. Your tips on prayer is really very helpful for me to guide the children further. Thanks a lot

  • V. Philip Abraham

    Though I have been teaching and guiding Sunday school children in India for many years I often get butterflies in my stomach when asked to lead the church congregation in prayer. But when I pray before the children or in small groups I don’t have this problem. In fact I guide and encourage children to lead in the class in prayer. Your tips on prayer is really very helpful for me to guide the children further. Thanks a lot

  • Juana

    Thanks Mark for this. I am actually preparing a sermon on what is prayer this week. Last week we talked about why we pray? And this is most helpful as well as confirms the direction I was heading in.
    I, like you, regard prayer as a simple conversation much like the one I’m having with close friends and those I love – it’s honest and there is no pretense! I shared with the congregation last week that God is interested in our daily lives and wants to hear the details. Even though he knows them, the conversation creates intimacy and binds us closer in love to our creator.
    I love what you share through this blog! Continue in God’s grace!

  • Mark Herringshaw

    Thanks for your encouragement, Juana! And it sounds like you are headed in much the same direction in your leadership. I have found that people really relish the freedom – the permission – to be bare bones honest with God. The Psalms are such a great precedent for this. David simply talked with God and then always came around to trust and faith. I’d love to continue to hear how your teaching is going. Bless you in your labors!

  • Mark Herringshaw

    Philip, I think you have come upon the real secret in prayer – being childlike! You are really finding your voice in prayer by praying with children! That’s exactly what Jesus says. We all have to recognize that we are all truly children. Of course we are! In light of living forever, what’s 85 years on this planet? Even someone that age is just an “infant” in light of eternity. Seeing this as you do, you are finding the true heart of prayer! Children really teach us how be what and who we are with God. Jesus puts them up as the role model for us all. We have to be like them to enter the Kingdom! Wow, I’m so encouraged by your words. Whether or not you can “pray” in front of adults is not really the issue, is it. You are helping children learn to pray AND in the process letting them teach you! And here’s a real wonder: Through this blog post you are also taught many many others as well. Thank you!

  • Mark Herringshaw

    Suzanne, what a beautiful tribute! Your example is so rich and authentic. God does not bring about pain and suffering, but when we reach to God through our pain and suffering our relationship is enriched. I can sense this in your response: instead of turning AWAY from God, you have turned toward God in your pain. Thank you. It’s a honor to know this part of your heart!

  • Dorothy

    Hi Mark, for almost a lifetime (I am 70 years old already), I have battled to pray because I was trying to say my prayers in the traditional church way of praying. It has only been in the past 7 years or so that I have found myself more ‘liberated’ than I was before and able to open up myself and ‘talk to God’. I try to start and end each day thinking of and thanking God for all the blessings that I have in my life. I invariably end up spilling my heart out to Him and, as you say, telling Him things that He surely knows already. And yes, my heart bursts with joy, love and confidence in sharing my life with Him. I have missed out on so much quality time with Him over the years but I am making up for it now that is for sure. My Father in Heaven knows that I am not His most saintly child but He knows I love Him. Thank you for helping me realise that I am doing it right.

  • Mark Herringshaw

    Dorothy, what a rich addition to our discussion! 70 years… Hey, you’re just starting out. Compared to the next 10,000 years and beyond, what’s seven decades? The free and heart-true relationship you’re developing with God now will carry over beyond the time you walk on this planet. Learning to talk and learning to talk with God is a craft that lasts forever and if it takes this long to begin to “get it,” that’s fine. Your words are a delight and a boost of encouragement to all of us!

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