I grew up as the descendant of preachers. Hearing my father and other church members pray shaped my earliest prayers. This oral tradition method of learning how to pray explains how certain phrases recur routinely, almost as ritual, in some churches that prize extemporaneous prayer. When I preached for a small church in Maryland, two men there prayed with a fervency and faith that revealed decades of love for God. Each would pray twenty minutes routinely when asked to lead public prayer. I realized just before the service began one Sunday night that both men would pray. I preached a shorter lesson than I had planned. We learned much about God from the prayers of these older saints. Paul and Joe reinforced in me a conviction that prayer is a conversation with God and therefore quite a serious matter. It is no “checking of the block in public worship or private devotion. While preaching at that church, I began to study the prayers of the Bible. and slowly realized that I prayed with more maturity and sensitivity as a result. A graduate school professor had introduced me to a book of prayers by Michael Quoist; like biblical prayers, Quoist taught me that prayer should reflect the realities and needs of contemporary life. Praying at funerals, military ceremonies as a chaplain, and in hospitals taught me that often prayer is much more about others than myself. Prayers request, intercede, praise, complain, surrender. As I noted in an earlier blog, hymns have influenced my prayers. For when I pray, I learn what it is to say, “Just as I am! Thy love unknown has broken every barrier down. Now to be Thine, yea, Thine alone. O Lamb of God, I come! I come!” Like John before the resurrected Christ in Revelation chapter 1, when we realize the nature of prayer and to whom we speak, we collapse, humbled by the majesty and power of our audience.