Here’s a joke I heard a long time ago:
A man went to prison and during lunch on his first day, a fellow inmate stood up and shouted “Number 12!” and everyone started laughing. Not really knowing what was going on, the new prisoner went back to eating his food. A minute or two later another inmate stood up and shouted “Number 26!” and again, everyone started laughing. Twice more, different inmates shouted out numbers and each time the whole dinning hall erupted with laughter. Finally the new inmate turned to the man sitting next to him and asked “What is going on? Why is everyone laughing at numbers?” The man replied, “Well we used to tell jokes at lunch time. But most of us have been in here so long and we’ve heard all of the jokes so many times, we just gave them numbers. So now, instead of telling the whole, long joke, we just say the number.” (The joke continues below)
How many of us are guilty of saying the same prayer so often, it might as well be a number? I know I am. I might as well say, “Dear God, Number 17, Amen. Ok, let’s eat.” Or “Dear God, Number 25, Amen. Alright, good night kids.”
I wonder how my wife would feel if sent her the same message everyday. “Sweetheart, I love you, I’m thinking about you. I hope you’re having a great day.” At first this would be very endearing. But after sending the same message everyday for years, it would probably become hollow. I doubt that I would be sending it with the same passion that I originally had and I doubt that she would receive it with the same affection.
God wants to hear us praying to Him (Pray without ceasing…, In every situation with prayer and petition…, Pray in the Spirit in all occasions…). But God isn’t a drive through service where we can say, “Dear God, Number 4 please, Amen.” Shake things up. Say a prayer you’ve never done before. Make it a conscious activity instead of words on autopilot flying out of your mouth. Prayer is a conversation with the Almighty and it deserves reverence.
“The effectual (potent), fervent (heated) prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” James 5:16 (synonyms added).
So the new inmate decided he would give it a try. He stood up and shouted “Number 17!” Nothing happened but a few awkward stares in his direction. He sat down and asked the man next to him, “Why didn’t everyone laugh? Isn’t that a joke?” The man replied “Yeah, we all know that one. But, you just didn’t tell right.”