Learning to Pray
Many people’s advice on how to pray is that praying is the same as having a conversation, but we all know that is just not true. In a conversation, there is give and take which moves the conversation along. In prayer, it is a one-way conversation and the person praying does all the talking. I have been a Christian my whole life and I still occasionally struggle with prayer. Sometimes it feels like our words have dried up and our mind is blank. We know we should pray but it feels futile or foolish to try because we are at a loss for words. Other times we may not pray because we think we have done something too impossible for God to forgive, or maybe we just forget to pray at all.
Forgetfulness is a common issue. Prayer, like anything else, must be practiced. We make a habit of it. Daniel 6:10 tells us that Daniel prayed three times a day as it was his custom to do. A custom is something we learn through practice. It is not a bad idea to set a time of day to pray and create a habit. Some find this works best in the morning before work or school, others do it at night before bed, or maybe during their lunch break. The key is to find some private time and just do it. The place is not the issue, making the time to do it is. Prayers can be short or long it really depends on the situation. The point is to learn how to connect with God. A good idea to get in the habit of prayer is to set a reminder or alarm on your phone. I often set reminders to do things. I even remind myself to do Bible study. Why not add prayer to your daily calendar if you have trouble remembering?
Find the Time
How to Pray
Growing up many of us learned how to pray from our parents, in our church, or maybe through friends or family. I grew up in one church but later started attending various churches and faiths. One recurring theme was repetitive prayer. Some chant/sing the same prayers over and over. Others use the same prayer daily. Maybe it is the prayer before a meal or before bed. My parents taught me to say a well-known prayer called, “Now I lay me down to sleep” before bed. It was the same prayer every night. But are we supposed to do that? Scripture tells us, “And in praying use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” (Matthew 6:7)
Imagine if someone came up to you every day and said the exact same thing. It would seem kind of creepy and we would not feel like we were building any kind of relationship with that person. Soon we would either be avoiding the person or start getting angry because we were tired of hearing it. Think about that. How does God feel when we do the same thing to Him? What God wants is to build a relationship with Him, to become part of his family. We cannot grow close to God if we just warble off some rhyme or memorized mantra. We must find a connection.
Find a Private Spot Inside or Out
After Jesus Christ was off praying alone His disciples asked Him how to pray. They were unsure what to do. They knew they were with the Messiah and surely saw a difference in the way Christ prayed to His Father from what they had learned. Christ replied by giving them an example of prayer. (Luke 11:1-4 and Matthew 6:9-13) Many today feel they can repeat the very words of Christ as a prayer, but that was not the intent. As you read above, Jesus told them to pray “in this manner”. It was an outline to teach them and us how to pray. If we take a deeper look we can see how useful it is for us in our daily prayer. (Matthew 6 King James Version)
“Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.”
An honorable and respectful greeting and a recognition of His greatness and holiness. Consider coming before a King and how honored you would be to be seen by him and have him consider your request. It is with even greater awe that we can come before our God and we acknowledge that everything about Him is holy. Notice too, the word “our” which includes all people, it is inclusive.
“Thy kingdom come”
This is a bigger statement than first appears. It is saying we know God has a plan for all of mankind and we earnestly pray that it will come quickly. It also says we want Him to govern our lives. (Our ultimate goal as Christians is to reach the Kingdom of God.)
“Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”
In scripture, we repeatedly see the words “Thy will be done” or “The will of the Lord be done”. God’s will is what we pursue. We want to do whatever He would have us to do. Christ was a great example of this. Even though He did not want to die He accepted God’s will. (Mark 14:36)
“Give us this day our daily bread.”
We ask God for not only the food and shelter we are provided with each day but for the bread of life, His word. We need both physical and spiritual food so we can be strengthened.
“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”
We ask God to forgive our sins. We tell Him openly about our sin and He hears and forgives us if we are repentant. (Psalm 25:18) We also express our thankfulness for that forgiveness. Then, we vow to show the same kind of forgiveness to those who do us wrongly. (Matthew 6:14-15)
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”
God does not actually lead us into sin. What we ask is that God help us to learn from our mistakes so that we do not repeat them. Once we ask forgiveness we should not return to that sin, but put the evil behind us and move forward. We ask that God keep Satan and his demons away and that no physical harm, evil, or distraction from what is good come before us.
“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.”
Just as we gave an honorable greeting, we end with respect and praise. (Revelation 19:5) Then we seal the prayer with an “Amen” which means, “So be it”. Since Christ asked us to, we should also include “In the name of Jesus Christ” before our Amen. (John 16:24-26)
It is important to speak to God. As stated, this is only a guide to how we should pray. It is a helper to get us going. In the middle, we might include prayers for the sick or those in need. We could also share our day with God. It seems easy to pray when we are scared because of our desperate feelings, but sometimes this guide can help us through when we feel stuck or are just getting started in prayer.
© 2018 Lorelei Nettles