“We do not pray at all until we are at our wits’ end.” -Oswald Chambers
I am guilty of this. I know I should pray and I believe in the power of prayer, but I certainly need to do it more. I tend to think of it as a higher priority when things are going wrong or I am completely at my wits’ end, but prayer is so much more than that. Can you relate with me on this? Maybe it’s because we don’t know how to pray. So, how should we pray?
Prayer has been proven many times in the Bible to be of great use to all of us. It is powerful and we don’t even realize it and I believe we take it for granted, if we even pray at all. It is certainly the single, greatest, untapped resource for believers.
Prayer to most of us is when we simply make a request to God for something or someone. We say things like, God, please help so and so, please help me obtain this or that, help me, help someone, do this, do that. Do we ever pray and just sit and listen? Prayer is a way of communicating directly to our Father. Think of it as an open communication channel that when we turn it on (start to pray) we can speak directly to God and listen for His word back to us. Kind of like a telephone call, but obviously a little more powerful than that. So do we pray because we feel obligated? Are we praying because we want something or want someone to have something?
“Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.” – James 5:13-18
As you can see from James, prayer is extremely powerful. What most of us do today is use it as a last resort. Typically, if we are sick for example, we will do everything in our power to fix ourselves, meanwhile never praying about it, until we have tried everything we can, and then we resort to our last attempt – prayer. Or how about when we wait until bedtime to pray, not that this is a bad thing or anything, but you wait until your lying in the bed looking up at the ceiling and spend about 20 seconds praying so you can hurry up to sleep or you just fall asleep in the process around 12 seconds in or so. I think what is happening here (me included), is that we are missing the point of prayer. Prayer comes first. When we are in trouble, we should pray. When we get sick, we should pray. We pray not only for things, but to glorify God and speak to Him. To spend time with Him. To worship Him.
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” – Matthew 6:5-15
A lot of us are afraid to pray because we never know how to do it, what to say, afraid we will do it wrong, or just feel silly sitting there. This is why God gave us His Word. Jesus Himself told us how we should pray and modeled it for us. Here are 5 guidelines that Jesus talks about when it comes to prayer:
Our Father In Heaven, Hallowed Be Your Name
First, we need to acknowledge the greatness of God. Basically saying God, you are amazing, wonderful, and I stand in awe of you and your greatness. We should respect God. Imagine the fact that our Creator allows us to approach the throne and communicate directly to Him. Think about that for a minute, amazing!
Your Kingdom Come, Your Will Be Done
Not our own will or anyone else’s plans, but only God’s will. We need to pray to align with what God wants first because after all, we tend to naturally bend towards sin. To think our will is perfect or that we know our plans better than God does, is absolutely crazy.
Give Us Today Our Daily Bread
The Bible states not to worry about the next day, today will take care of its own. We are to live day to day because we don’t know how much time we have here on earth. We need God to guide us in so many ways, every day. By asking God to give us our daily bread, we are asking God to provide for us what we need, today.
Forgive Us Our Debts, As We Also Have Forgiven Our Debtors
We need to proclaim the Gospel to ourselves, each and every day. We need to be reminded that Jesus Christ died for us on the Cross for all of our past, present, and future sins. Being that God has forgiven us, we need to continue to praise Him (how could we not?), and then be reminded to forgive those since Christ first loved us (1 John 4:19).
Lead Us Not Into Temptation, But Deliver Us From The Evil One
Lastly, we should pray for the Holy Spirit to lead us including leading us away from temptation, delivering us from evil (1 Corinthians 10:13). We can be confident in knowing that God will deliver us from the evil one, and take that same confidence to face whatever it is the day is going to bring us, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The last thing I would want you to read in this, is that we need to become legalistic and pray in a way that we go through this list, checking off each section, and being confident we had a “successful” prayer. There is tremendous freedom He gives us when it comes to praying. You could pray all throughout the day, when waking up, before bedtime, while driving to work, walking in the park, while reading Scripture, taking a shower, or while eating dinner. What’s going to be more important in this is the matter of your heart. It’s your heart that God is concerned with over your words.
“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” – Matthew 6:7
Obviously words are important, but they are not the point. Give God glory and honor by making Him first, praying for His will to be done, declaring your dependency on Him by asking for provision and leading each day, humble yourself with the Gospel, and entrust the Holy Spirit to empower you and lead you including making a way out of temptation.
I’d like to encourage you to consider praying. Praying much more than you already do, if you do at all. I am guilty of this as well, but if I tell God I know the power of prayer, and then I do not pray, then I really don’t know the power of prayer. If I don’t make it a priority in my life, I don’t value it. If I can’t spend time with my Creator, then how in the world will I be about His will and develop a deeper relationship with Him? Let’s all take this time to be refreshed in the power of prayer and to follow the guidelines that Jesus has provided for us. Let us pray.
Question: What priorities do you need to change in order to pray? What is standing in your way?
Here are other Frequently Asked Questions and how the Bible answers them.