We think and talk a lot about prayer as believers don’t we? If you go into a Christian bookstore, you will find entire sections devoted to the discipline of prayer. Prayer is essential to the Christian’s spiritual life, so it is no surprise that it remains a central topic in the Evangelical world. It seems to me however, that there are a lot of folks who feel unsure about the how-to’s of praying. They don’t know where to start, or they don’t think they know the right way to go about it. Since this seems to be a common dilemma, I thought it would be a good topic to examine in today’s essay.
I’d like to start this essay by pointing out that I do not consider myself an expert. I’m just a fellow pilgrim with some thoughts. That being said, I experienced conversion well into adulthood and I clearly remember those early, awkward, yet glorious days of learning to walk with the Lord. Which included the new practice of praying. Am I doing it right? Am I saying the right things? Am I reverent enough? What should I expect afterward? Should I feel a certain way? Is this too small of a thing to bother Him with? Maybe you’ve wondered similar things. Let’s take a look at what the Bible has to say…
The first little bit of comfort I have to offer you is that the disciples also wanted to know the right way to pray! Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1). Earnestness is the mark of a regenerated heart. So, if you care about praying correctly, be encouraged. Here is the model Jesus gave them:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
Jesus didn’t give this prayer for us to repeat verbatim and call it good. It is a frame work or model to base our own prayers on. Notice that Jesus begins by giving reverence to the Father, followed by the desiring of, and submission to His will and plans. The purpose of prayer isn’t to control God with our desires, but rather to conform our hearts to His. And how do we know what His will is? By reading and understanding the Bible.
Whether you are a new Christian or have been a believer for some time and you are struggling with prayer, may I gently ask you: are you in the Word regularly? If not, that may be your answer right there as to why prayer is difficult. God speaks to us through His Word, and we speak to Him through prayer. That’s the God-ordained formula. If you never read His Words, and don’t know what He says, it is no wonder you are floundering. In that instance you are in a one-way conversation: you speaking to God, or trying to, but not knowing how, or what to say, because you don’t know what He has said. So, step one: read your Bible! Every day!
The next section deals with asking for our daily needs to be met. God has promised to meet our needs (Matthew 6:25-34; Philippians 4:19). He determines what our needs are, since He knows what is best. Then, the reminder to confess our sins regularly and to forgive those who have sinned against us. Lastly, a request to be kept from temptation and evil. I think this is a great starting point if you haven’t gotten the habit or feel for praying. Use this model, but in your own words, with your own personal details. Copying Jesus is never a bad idea. 🙂
Going a step further, as you begin to regularly read the Word, you can pray about the lessons you are learning. Did the passage talk about loving others? Ask God to help you be more loving and to give you His love for others. Did you read about the fruits of the Spirit? Ask God to cultivate these fruits in you. Did the scripture go over obedience? Ask the Lord to help you obey and to give you the desire to obey. Did it warn about false teachers? Ask the Holy Spirit to give you discernment and understanding of the Word.
If you know of needs or issues among your fellow believers, you can add those to your prayer time. Is there someone you know who is not saved? Pray for their salvation.
It is a good idea, as a point of discipline, to have a specific Bible study and prayer time that you commit to daily. However, prayer does not need to be limited to that. Anytime something comes across your mind, whether it is a need or a personal heart issue, say a brief prayer right then. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
I hope these suggestions have been a helpful starting point for you if you’ve been intimidated by the discipline of praying. It really irks me when I see books peddled that imply that there is a secret, particular way in which to pray to be more effective. Praying isn’t rocket science. It is talking to God, just as you would a respected friend. If you are a believer, you are a beloved, adopted child of the King! Because of Jesus, you can boldly approach the throne yourself. There is no earthly priest or secret formula. Jesus is our High Priest and Advocate, who has made a way for us to come directly to the throne. Don’t squander this amazing privilege! Take time each day to pray, and to hear from God through His word.
Soli Deo Gloria!