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The Right Way to Talk to God

A teenager learns a lesson about prayer from his pastor, who teaches him to pray like he’s talking to a friend.

A young man bows his head in prayer
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The Snyder-family pew was second from the front. Twice a week my parents, younger brother and sister and I filed in there—once for Sunday service and once for the Wednesday-night prayer meeting. Pastor Reed kept a watchful eye on all of us kids. A Sunday-morning snicker or fidget would quickly be met with a raised eyebrow and a warning glance over the top of his thick black spectacles.

Wednesday nights were even worse. After a lengthy sermon and Bible study, the pastor paired us with prayer partners. Then he chose a partner for himself.

That was panic time for a 15-year-old boy. I was all too familiar with Sunday’s pastoral prayer, which easily hit the 15-minute mark and flew right past it.

The last thing I or any of us kids wanted was to be Pastor Reed’s prayer partner.

I had managed to avoid that experience, until one Wednesday when the pastor called, “Jim, come and be my prayer partner tonight.” Nabbed! My face flushed. My brother nudged me. I thought of my friends secretly sighing in relief that they had gotten through another week scot-free.

It’ll all be over in a few minutes, I told myself as I knelt beside Pastor Reed in the front pew, my mouth as dry as the previous Sunday’s sermon. “Go ahead, Jim,” he encouraged. “I’ll pray after you.”

I was familiar with prayer. I prayed often, and always before an English test. But this was different.

I coughed a few times, then began to speak. “God bless my mom, dad, brother and sister. Bless my relatives and my classmates.” I blessed the church, the town, the state of Florida and probably the whole United States, not wanting my pastor to think I had selfish prayers. Every word came faster until they all blended together and I slid into the “Amen” as if it were home plate.

I made it! I thought, unclenching my folded hands. Now it was his turn.

“Well, Jim,” the pastor said, and I had a sinking feeling this wasn’t his prayer. “That was a good start.” Then he explained what it meant to pray, how to pray. “Just like you would talk to me, that’s how you can talk to God.”

Fine, I thought. I’ll do that next time.

“Jim, why don’t you try again?” Pastor Reed said.

I couldn’t believe it!

“And remember,” he continued, “talk to God like you’d talk to a friend.” I took a deep breath. Like I’d talk to a friend. My prayer began the same way, but the words left my lips more slowly, and I was able to focus on what they meant. Halfway through I realized how easy it was to pray—and how good it felt.

Pastor Reed smiled. “Very nice, Jim,” he said.

My pastor never called on me to pray with him again. But I wouldn’t have minded. I had learned to talk to God like the friend that he is.

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