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How to Pray - Prayer Part I
How Do We Pray?
How do we pray?
How should we pray? Is there a format, or a set principle we should be following? The most important thing is that we learn to shed human traditions on the subject and get back to what the scriptures teach us.
Fancy prayers won't save you.
God wants you to pray from the heart. I am going to take you through some simple steps to start you off shedding bad prayer habits. We are sometimes so deep in tradition that we loose sight of the depth of relationship God has to offer us when we can pray out of love and genuine relationship rather than obligation, guilt or tradition.
Joyce Meyer - Learning To Receive
1. Praying for an Entitlement
Some of us are praying to try to receive what God has already given us entitlement to. Begging for forgiveness and salvation when we begin our prayers is like saying "God, I didn't believe you when you said I was forgiven."
"And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus...For it is by grace you ave been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast."(Ephesians 2:6-8)
Joyce Meyer makes this point by explaining that it is like trying to sit in a seat that your already sitting in!
I used to have a habit of trying to think of everything I needed forgiveness for when I prayed. I would sit there trying to make sure I didn't forget a sin to confess! There have been occasion when I have felt I needed to specifically repent, but being afraid of missing every single sin is soul destroying.
Jesus died to cover all sin, don't waste time trying to be entitled to forgiveness or salvation.
Prayer Part I
2. What did Jesus Say About Prayer?
The first thing we should do is hold our prayer habits against this scripture;
"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 one in secret, will reward you. And wen 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 by 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)
There are three things I wish to extract from this;
- How to Pray - Part II Conversation v. Obligation
Many of us are trying to grow a prayer life out of obligation. How should we pray? Out of a conversation with God. If you want to know how to pray naturally this will set you free.
How To Pray - Forgive
a. Forgiveness is important (see also Matthew 5:24)
Note that the emphasis here is often missed. We spend time begging for forgiveness (of which I have already spoken), and no time contemplating forgiveness for others. It is the forgiveness of others that is the key. It is actually a block to God forgiving us! It is so important to live in peace and forgive quickly. Forgiveness is a whole other issues, but I will say this. Forgiveness is a choice. We don't have to feel like it.
I often pray something like this "that person is really pissing me off. I choice forgiveness, please help me to feel it." It works every time thanks to the work of the Holy Spirit. And yes I do speak like that to God. If I am thinking it then it's no point trying to pretend, he knows my every thought!
b. Few Words
"Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your works be few. As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are man words." (Ecclesiastes 5:1-3)
Well meaning people give long prayers that are really sermons. I have heard them many times, and it's just a bad habit. Corporate prayer is very important, but it is clear from these scriptures that we must be careful not to "babble" or "offer the sacrifice of fools."
c. In Private
Private prayer from the heart is very important. Praying in groups has its purposes, but we must be careful to not neglect our personal time with God. I know that I still struggle with praying in front of people and not worrying about what they think. When these scriptures where written the sort of behaviour in mind was praying on knees in view of people as a show of righteousness. We have invented other ways of making this show these days, such as telling everyone that you pray for an hour every morning, or making sure the whole house knows that you are going to your room!
Prayer must be personal, and just like showy works flaunting our prayer life is dead works.
Our fancy prayers won't save us.
Turn on the Switch!
Seven Woes to the Modern Day Pharisee
3. Praying from the Heart
Set yourself free from the bounds of religious conventions when you pray. There are many Pharisaical traditions that have found there way into modern day Christianity.
There are many different views and rules around the various denominations and Christian organisations on how a person should pray. If we look at the prayer relationship as like parent to child, how would you feel if your child came up to you and read a conversation from a piece of paper? It would be so insulting!
I heard a story that gives a real life example on how we should just come as we are in prayer and pray from the heart.
Pastor Daniel Nalliah tells a story that when he was 12 years old there was a life and death situation, and he had only been a believer for 3 months. He was living in Sri Lanka and his parents where facing ethnic cleansing, and where about to be burnt on tires.
Daniel didn't now how to pray. All he knew was that Jesus was real and he wanted him to save him. He says he prayed something like this;
"Hey you God, what on earth do you think you are doing up there, do you realise that my parents are about to be killed! Now if you are really God you better come down and do something. If not this is what I'm going to do..."
Then he gave God his threats!
Anyway, a neighbor jumped in front of his parents, in between them and the burning party and told them that if she wanted to kill them they would have to kill her first. She was a Buddhist, and her brother happened to be leading the mob. Consequently they turned away, and Daniel's parents where saved! (Pastor Daniel is now in Australia http://catchthefire.com.au/)
God Already Knows
God knows the desires of your heart before you open your mouth. Remember the light bulb above? Once plugged in to the electricity it doesn't have to try to shine.
You are the light of the world. Unplug any habits that make you struggle, and let prayer flow naturally. Do don't have to use many formal words, just a quiet plea, from the heart.