I’m sure you know that prayer is important for our lives as Christians. But, let’s be real. It’s not always easy to pray and we don’t always want to do it. Prayer can be an even bigger challenge when we don’t know how to pray. In some circles, prayer seems almost like a Christian competition of who’s more holy, spiritual, and more connected to God. It can seem impossible when we hold ourselves to other people’s standards. Thankfully, that’s not what prayer is about. So, if it isn’t, then what is prayer? Why do we need it and how should we be praying? I’ll walk you through a few things I’ve learned that really changed everything for me.
What is prayer?
Prayer is simply talking with God. It can involve praise and adoration, thanksgiving, petition, repentance, and intercession.
Why is it important to pray?
There are many good reasons to pray. Here are a few of them.
Direct line of communication
It’s important to pray because prayer is our direct line of communication with God. The Bible says that God hears us when we pray (1 John 5:14). In fact, he doesn’t just hear us he wants to hear from us.
Think about it, would you call someone your friend if you don’t communicate with them? So, how can you call God a friend if you don’t communicate with him?
Aligns our hearts with God’s
Prayer aligns our heart with God’s heart. It helps us to desire his will. Our hearts need to be continuously renewed and transformed so that we become more like Jesus. If we’re not praying, our hearts can’t be renewed.
Strengthens our faith
Prayer also strengthens our faith. When we see our prayers answered, it strengthens our faith in who God is. Even if our prayers are not answered how we would like them to be, we still grow in our faith.
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Teaches us to be persistent
Prayer teaches us about the power of persistence. Sometimes, we end up praying about one thing for weeks, months, and even years. We learn persistence and patience as we wait for God to answer our prayer.
Is there a right way to pray?
Is there a right way to pray? Yes and no. I say no because there aren’t any rules and regulations for how your prayer should sound, where you should pray, or even how long you should be praying for. However, I would say yes because there is a way to pray that shows respect and brings honor to God. Ultimately, God is most concerned with our heart.
Prayer can be a quick whisper or a long conversation. It depends on the circumstances.
On the cross, Jesus cried out seven phrases before he died. Those phrases count as prayer even though they don’t follow the format we’re used to. They were quick prayers of agony and an honest expression of pain to God. Sometimes, we can only pray a quick prayer asking for help. Once again, God is concerned with the genuineness of our heart. If our heart is genuine, he hears us. (Ps 51:17)
However, Jesus did teach us a method for prayer. It’s known as the Lord’s Prayer.
What Jesus taught about prayer
Pray then like this:
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.Matthew 6:9-13
Jesus taught us to pray following the format of the Lord’s prayer. This does not mean we have to pray these exact words. They are simply a guideline for how we should pray. Following this guideline, I’ll breakdown helpful steps you can follow when praying.
What are the steps for praying?
1. Adoration and praise
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
First, praise God for who he is. If you’re not sure what to say, read through the Psalms. There are countless praises you can use in your prayer. You could even start off with a song. Many worship songs offer praise to God. Also be sure to express thanksgiving to God as well. As always, make sure that your heart is in it and that it doesn’t become a vain routine of going through the motions.
2. Recognize God’s will and sovereignty
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Next, recognize God’s will. We’re humans and sometimes we tend to pray for what we want even if it goes against his will. Acknowledge God’s will so that as you pray for your needs and desires to be met, he guides your heart to pray for his will to be done instead of yours. Essentially, in this step you are surrendering and allowing God to confirm your heart to his.
3. Express your needs and don’t forget to pray for others
Give us this day our daily bread
Now, you can ask for what you need. Be open before God since he already knows everything about you. There isn’t anything too big or too small for you to ask. The answer could be “yes,” or it might be “no” but you’ll never know unless you ask. Don’t forget to pray for others in this step too.
4. Repent and ask for forgiveness
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
Repentance doesn’t just happen once, we should practice it all the time. No, it’s not because we fear some hidden sin that we’re going to be punished for. Instead, we repent because God is constantly convicting our hearts of truth. We repent in humility, acknowledging that there’s still growth that needs to be done in our hearts. There are still things that we’re clinging to that we need to turn from in order to embrace what God wants to do in our lives. Of course, if we have knowingly sinned, we can repent and ask forgiveness for what we have done. Finally, we should also forgive others.
5. Ask God to keep you from temptation
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
In this step, ask God to keep you from temptation and protect you from the plans of the enemy. We don’t keep ourselves from falling into traps by trying to do it all on our own. God is the one who keeps us from falling. If we want him to do that for us, we should ask.
6. Close with praise and adoration
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
The English Standard Version does not include this last line of the Lord’s prayer but the King James Version does. I want to mention that it’s important to close out with praise and adoration. This step is the only one that’s repeated. Perhaps that could mean it’s the most important. So, while you should be doing all the other things I mentioned, let praise and adoration be your focus. Praise when you begin and praise when you close out.
Why pray if God already knows everything about us?
This is a question that many people wrestle with. We wrestle with the idea of sovereignty and free will and how it relates to prayer. While I am not an expert on this, here’s what I can tell you.
Even though God knows everything about us and everything that will happen in the future, he still wants to hear from us. It’s like a parent who knows what’s wrong with their child, but still wants him or her to trust them enough to share. When you tell God what you need or what’s going on in your life, you open yourself up to receiving comfort from him.
Next, even though God is sovereign, human beings still have free will to choose. God is not a dictator, he’s a Father. Throughout the Bible, we see God constantly giving human beings choices. In the garden, he gave Adam and Eve a choice of whether or not to obey or disobey. Then, he gave Abraham a choice to follow him or not. He gave Israel countless choices to repent or keep living in their sinful ways. Finally, he gives us a choice to accept him and be saved or reject him and inherit eternal damnation.
We pray so that God’s will can be accomplished in our lives.
We pray so that God’s will can be accomplished in our lives. There are doors in our lives that cannot be opened unless we knock, things that we cannot receive unless we ask, and blessings we cannot find unless we seek. While God wants to give us these things, he won’t ever force us to have them if we aren’t willing to ask and receive.
Finally, we all know that prayer changes things but have you considered that it also changes us? God won’t always answer prayers the way we want him to. Sometimes the answer will be no. But, each time we pray, we are transformed and we grow closer to God.
What prayer is NOT
So, you know a little about what prayer is and why it’s important. I also wanted to share what prayer is not about.
- A popularity contest
- A way to gain attention
- A way to force God’s hand
- Vain Repetition
Prayer is a genuine conversation with God. It’s not so that you can gain popularity among your church community and it’s not a way to gain attention or make yourself look better than everyone else. It’s not a way to force God’s hand to do something you want. You can’t do that. It’s not just repeating the same words over and over again. It’s not meditation. And it’s definitely not magic. God is not our personal genie. We serve him, not the other way around.
Prayer is beautiful, it’s incredible, and it’s amazing. We need to be praying every single day. The Bible says “without ceasing.” That means that you can constantly whisper words of adoration, thanksgiving, intercession, repentance, and petition to God all throughout your day. He’s always listening and he’s never busy. He longs to hear from you.
Creative ways to pray
- Praying the scriptures – praying the scriptures is simply choosing a short passage of scripture, breaking it down, and praying for the things mentioned in the scripture over your life.
- Journaling your prayers – if you like to write, you can journal your prayers. Prayer journaling is great because you can look back on what you wrote and see how your prayers have been answered.
- Praying with a group – you can pray with a group and assign each person a topic to pray for.
- Praying for others on the street – finally, you can whisper short prayers over people that you meet on the street, at work, or in other day to day encounters.
Prayer is essential for our lives as Christians. It’s not as hard as it seems if we have the right tools in place. It might feel awkward sometimes and you won’t always know what to say but keep praying. It has more to do with honesty and a genuine heart than it has to do with eloquent and fancy words. As you continue to pray, it’ll get easier. Don’t stop praying, no matter what.