Most of us know that a relationship with God is more than simply saying we believe in Him and carrying on with life as usual. We know that prayer is important and needs to be part of our daily lives. (For those of us who don’t know, it’s okay! We’re all growing and learning!)
Even though we know that we should pray, we don’t always know how to pray. We don’t know what to say or how to say it.
Thankfully, the Lord gives us some guidelines in His Word.
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There are several wonderful things about prayer:
1. This is how we communicate with God.
2. At the very moment we want to talk to God, He is there. No voicemail on His end for us to leave a message. No disappointment of hearing, “I’ll call you back later.” He is ready to listen as soon as you are ready to speak.
3. God wants authenticity from us. Not eloquent words. Not well rehearsed speeches. He wants us to speak to Him from our hearts. This removes all intimidation from feelings of competition. He simply wants us to be real.
4. God will never laugh at our dreams, our ambitions, our fears, failures or anything else. Instead, as we learn more of His Word, we realize that some of our dreams and aspirations come from Him. He also wants to calm and deliver us from our fears, and He wants to turn our failures into victories.
What are some of the reasons we pray?
1. Our relationship with God is just that: a relationship.
In order to love someone, we need to nurture that relationship. A large part of nurturing our relationship with Him is done through communication. We speak audibly to Him, and in return He speaks to us through His Word.
When we listen closely, we can also hear Him “whisper” to our souls. Those are times that we feel prompted to call someone to tell them we are thinking about them, or when we feel an urgency to do something, only to find that we avoided a serious accident or something because we listened to a prompting inside of us.
Furthermore, God proves to us He is listening by things that happen after we pray! How amazing is it that we may be praying about not having enough money to buy groceries, and someone shows up at our door with a week’s worth of food? Or the times we have expressed to God that we don’t understand something, and the next message preached at church answers exactly what we needed to know? Pretty amazing, isn’t it?
2. We need the interaction and interceding in our lives that cannot happen on its own.
God never intended for His followers to walk through this life without His presence and His help. Life gets heavy, situations become impossible, and He wants us to bring our needs to Him.
Jesus already knows what we need before we even think to ask. Even so, He doesn’t want us to ever forget to acknowledge our need for His provision, help and strength.
Now that we know a little more about prayer and why we pray, what do we say? We know what God wants as far as authenticity and sincerity, but what do we pray about?
Jesus laid out an example for how to pray to God. Even one of His disciples asked the Lord to teach them how to pray, so none of us need to feel bad if we need some guidance to learn! (Luke 11:1)
In Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus lays out a template for us:
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“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. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”Matthew 6:9-13
It wasn’t His intention for us to merely recite the words from His example. The template was to show us what to pray about. It is helpful to memorize the prayer, which is referred to as “The Lord’s Prayer”, because when we pray, it will be in our minds, and will remind us of each thing we should pray about.
Let’s break the prayer down so that we can see how to pray to God:
Our Father in heaven
He is our heavenly Father. Our earthly father is someone we can approach; someone we have a close relationship to. He wants us to be comfortable when we come to Him. Not fearful, not mechanically, but comfortably.
Hallowed be your name
Hallowed means holy, sacred, respected. Part of current culture approaches our Savior very casually in spirit. (This is not referring to clothing.) We never want to do that.
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Jesus is not our buddy, our homie, our boo, or homeboy. Calling Him such can affect our view of Him, and cause us to think of Him more on the level of a human being, and not the Savior of our souls. We don’t want Him to be on our human level! Mentally bringing Him to our level will hinder our respect for Him, and will decrease our faith in Him as holy, or our Deliverer or Healer. The Bible does call Him our Friend, and that is still perfectly acceptable today. We just cannot forget to respect Him as holy and sacred.
Your kingdom come
The Bible says that the Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). We need to pray for these things to impact our world, which so desperately needs. When God fulfills this part of our prayer, the result is others who have been born again because these things are found through His Spirit!
Praying for His kingdom to come is to pray for souls and the workings of the Holy Spirit on Earth.
Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven
Part of growing in God is learning to desire His will and to accept His will. We know His will is for righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, but there are many more things to pray for His will about as well. There are personal decisions we need to make in areas of our jobs, our future marriages, relocation to a new state, the perfect calling for our lives, and many other things.
This doesn’t mean that we have no say in our lives. God allows us to be individuals with our own tastes, talents and goals, but we do need to be open to allowing Him to steer us in the way He wants us to go in every area of our lives, even if it isn’t what we had in mind.
Wanting a job at the new factory in town that pays well is fine, for example, but God sees if the job will destroy our spiritual walk with too many bad influences, and He may just redirect our path because of it.
God may tug at our hearts about our current relationship with someone we are considering marrying. It might not be because that person is bad, but it could be because we’re not on the same page with where we are going.
Sincerely praying for God’s will may be difficult sometimes because we have our hearts set on certain things, but we do need to allow God to be God regardless. Many times we will understand why some things didn’t work out as time goes on.
Give us this day our daily bread
We can take our needs to God for His provision. It’s important to distinguish between our needs and our wants. We need food and shelter, but we don’t need a million dollar home, nor do we need to be eating lobster and filet mignon three nights a week.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors
It is good to ask the Lord for forgiveness regularly. We will make mistakes along our journey. Sometimes it is physically, such as saying harsh words to a friend in a moment of anger, and other times it may be something in our attitude, such as a struggle with envy or pride.
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God is faithful to forgive us, and He gives us the responsibility to do the same for others. We need to forgive others. Praying for those who have wronged us will help us to forgive easier.
Please make note of asking for forgiveness. As already stated, God is faithful and will forgive us. Even so, what God is forgiving is a heart that is truly sorry for doing wrong, and a heart that is turning away from those wrongs. He is not forgiving because we spoke the words, “I’m sorry.”
We will make mistakes, but we cannot buy into the modern day thinking of, “Well, I sin every day,” as if it is okay. To do so is to deny that the Spirit of God within us is not powerful enough to help us change. If we are sinning every day, we need to spend more time praying for God’s provision-His strength to overcome.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one
This ties into our last area of prayer. We can pray for God to help us to avoid sin. He can help us to discern whether certain places will tempt us to do wrong, such as places we used to hang out that have negative influences on us.
This is another area to make special note of as we grow in our Christian walk. God will help us to escape temptations, but He also expects us to join in His effort. That means, if we have not added new, healthier habits to our lives, and have held on to old, destructive ways, we have work to do.
It is up to us to delete friends and acquaintances, who hinder our walk with God, from our phone, our social media, and any other direct forms of contact. This does not mean everyone who is not a Christian. It does, however, mean those who purposely try to drag us back to our old lifestyles, or who do not value us enough to be respectful toward the way we have chosen to live.
A few more points:
1. We don’t need to be intimidated as we learn to communicate with God. He created us. He knows the depths of our hearts. Intimidation can come from hearing others pray. We need to remember that some people have been praying for years. Their prayers may flow beautifully, and that’s fine. If ours don’t, that’s fine too. God cares what is in the heart. Not all of us are great orators, but those who speak beautifully, and those who can barely form a sentence are equally as precious and important in the eyes of God.
2. God does not want us to be robotic. He wants us to express ourselves from our hearts. Every day in life differs. There are times we feel like we are on top of the world, and other times we are heartbroken. God wants to share in our joy, and He also wants to comfort us in our brokenness. We need to be ourselves.
3. When we feel discouraged, and even wonder if God hears us, we need to never stop praying. We need to pray even when we would rather hide from God. Don’t worry—He’s a loving Father and Friend. He wants us to talk to Him.
4. While some may laugh at this idea, there are those who feel like they are supposed to pray in old English. Be at ease that this is not so. If Jesus were to walk on Earth today, He would not approach us and say, “Greetings! How art thou?” No, He would speak to us in our own language that we can relate to. He would say, “Hey! How are you doing?”, or something like that. Once again, the key is to pray from the heart.
5. Our prayers should always be full of our thankfulness as well.
Prayer is our friend. May we all grow closer to our Lord as we thank Him for this wonderful tool of communication He has blessed each and every one of us with.