How can I Pray?
Matthew 6: 5-15; 7: 7-12
If you think that you do not know how to pray, you need to ask yourself, do I know how to talk and listen? If you know how to talk to another person, then you know how to pray! Prayer is basically our communication with the Great Sovereign God of the Universe who wants the best for us and to hear from us!
The great wonder is not so much in how we pray, but that God is willing to listen to us! The great, wonderful fallout from our being saved (redemption) is our ability to pray real and effective prayers that God actually hears and to which He responds! God will actually speak to us through His Word, and the Holy Spirit teaches and convicts us through the Word. The fact is, our prayer time with God is basically our conversing with Him, through which we express our thanks for whom He is, what He did for us, and discover our purpose in life. Thus, through our prayers, we can be taught, we can grow, and we can be convicted so we can apply His precepts to our lives and affect those around us, too.
Prayer is coming to God through discussion, learning, and relationship building. It is the channel of communication between Christ and us. We give ourselves to Christ as He has given Himself to us-much like a man and woman give themselves to each other in marriage. Since God has given Himself, what is in the way of our being able and willing to respond?
Prayer is not just talking to God; it is also meant to further link us to Him and develop our relationship with Him so we can build our faith, character, and maturity. Remember, we have access to God; we have permission to come to Him! Wow! What a privilege we have (Rom 5:1)! So what are you going to do about it?
For us to even start to change our fears or laziness or expectations on prayer, we need to realize it is God at work in us, and allow Him to work at His pace. Prayer takes our efforts and time, but it is well worth it! The time and patience we are to put in it and in the time and patience God is working in us, slowly crafting and molding us. It is a learning endeavor, too. Learning to pray is like learning a new language. It takes that time effort; if we do not use it, we lose it; and, with prayer, we just end up not doing it. We also have to see that we are all in a process of learning and growing. Whether we spend three or more hours or five minutes a day in prayer, we are always learning and growing. There are no experts in prayer, as we are all apprentices.
So, how do I pray?
When this is asked of me I always point the person to Matthew 6:9-13 or Luke 11:1-4. These passages are both called the Lord's Prayer. However, they are not prayers; rather, they are "patterns" or templates for us on how to pray. Many Christians over the centuries have memorized these passages as prayers and recite them every day like a mantra. This memorization is a great thing to do, but the passages are not prayers; rather, they are the instructional guides on how to pray. To recite these passages as prayers is like giving a recipe to your dinner guests while forgoing the preparing of the meal. You may think this is silly; who would eat a recipe? But, this is exactly what we are doing with prayer! It is like getting a picture of a car and thinking you can drive that picture to work.
The passages in Matthew and Luke give us the quintessential template on how to pray. Jesus is calling us to a relationship with Him; and, to do that, we are to seek Him. We do this with communication, as we would talk with anyone, with the emphasis on our sincerity. Because to get closer to God, is what He wants!
Jesus tells us that our prayers are not just selfish wish lists to get God to cater to our needs and whims; rather, their true purpose is for us to be shaped by what He has revealed, and to grow in our character, perseverance, and maturity. Our bad motivations come from an improper understanding of God, His precepts, and His call; thus, they seek approval from people and are unconcerned about God (Matt. 11:25; John 11:41; Acts 27:35).
Prayer is not about what we want or us; it is about growing close to God. It is acknowledging that He is the Boss, He is Sovereign and Lord, and we are to be grateful beyond measure for the relationship and communication we can have with Him (Col. 1:15-23; 1 Thess. 5:16-18). Prayer is a two-way communication between God, our Creator, and us! We are made for relationships, and communication is essential for effective, relational growth. For the Christian, prayer is one of the main ways to grow in faith and maturity in our Christian formation; alongside this includes getting into the Word with personal study and devotions, solid, group Bible study, teaching, and the various disciplines of the faith.
Consider this, why waste your time with repetition when our God is sovereign; we do not need to use superfluous words! God is not swayed by the quantity of our words, but by the quality of our heart, offered with a merciful spirit (Matt. 18:21-23; James 2:13). We get far more out of any conversation when we say things differently and say new things. Would you tell your mom or spouse the same sentences over and over again? Then why do this with God? Jesus was condemning the Jewish leaders who, to get what they wanted, used overload prayers to tire God out with their many prayers and formulas that were repeated over and over again. The point of the condemnation is that they knew better! Do we know better? What are our motivations in prayer-to grow closer to Him or just to get what we want? The answers will help determine where we are in our spiritual formation.
Prayer must be sincere, heartfelt, and real! God is impressed by what is in your heart, not with your quantity or quality of words.
Abraham Lincoln was asked why he was not praying that God would be on "our" side during the American Civil War. He responded, "We do not pray that God is on our side; we pray that we are on His side!" Are you on His side? We can start by keeping our prayer life focused on God, not what others are doing. We are to keep our eyes on God, not on people! If you only seek God for your needs, you will never understand God or yourself, or His wonderful plan for you (John 17:22)! Your faith will be on your terms only. How sad that would be! How much you would lose out on the growth and opportunities He has for you!