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How to Pray:The Elements of An Effective Prayer
There is no greater joy derived than conversing with the Creator of Universe, King of Kings and Lord of Lords through prayer. It brings greater joy and peace to know God knows us more than anybody else. He knows our strengths and weaknesses, our fears, our failures, our longings and even the secrets we have hidden from everyone else.
How sweet it feels to bring forth to the presence of God our worries, needs and wants, our problems, desires, uncertainties, hopelessness, helplessness, discouragements, disappointments, rejections, and just to have somebody to talk to. The fact we have somebody who is willing to hear us, listen to us, and ready to help us is enough to always approach the throne of God in prayers.
Thereby, the question remains: What is prayer? Prayer is a channel through which we communicate with God. It is a two-way traffic communication where we talk to God, and God talks to us. It is through this means of communication we can communicate to the Supreme Being who resides in spirit form.
However, it is important to know what constitutes an effective prayer. God hears all of us when we talk to Him. The only thing is that some prayers are never answered because the way the person has approached God is not proper e.g being proud while praying.
The following are important points to note in order for your prayer to become effective.
Elements of An Effective Prayer
Is there right way or wrong way to pray? Not exactly! It doesn’t matter whether you pray alone or in a group of Christians, whether you pray kneeling or standing up, whether you pray with your eyes closed or your hands lifted up. There is no right or wrong formula. All God asks from us is to pray in humility. We should not be proud.
A good example to show why attitude does matter is the story Jesus gave of a Pharisee and tax collector. One prayed in meekness while the other one boasted of his own good works including following the law of God to the letter. He was proud. One of the seven deadliest sins God hates as outlined in the book of Proverbs is pride. The Bible even states pride destroys a nation, which also applies to an individual.
"Then he told this story to some who boasted of their virtue and scorned everyone else:“Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a proud, self-righteous Pharisee, and the other a cheating tax collector. The proud Pharisee ‘prayed’ this prayer: ‘Thank God, I am not a sinner like everyone else, especially like that tax collector over there! For I never cheat, I don’t commit adultery, I go without food twice a week, and I give to God a tenth of everything I earn.’
“But the corrupt tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed, but beat upon his chest in sorrow, exclaiming, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home forgiven! For the proud shall be humbled, but the humble shall be honored.” (Luke 18:9-14)
2) Faith: An Expectant Heart
God expects us to have the ‘heart of a child.’ What does this mean? It means we should come into the presence of God with expectant hearts. Remember, when children ask something from their parents, they have faith and are hopeful, their parents will answer their requests. They know without any doubt they will be given money to buy an ice-cream.
As stated above, God expects us to have expectant hearts. When we ask anything of God, we should believe God is able to answer. He is able to do it. God doesn’t like a doubtful heart because it doesn’t trust God who is able and more exceedingly able to do something which even to human reasoning is impossible.
This is clearly stated in Hebrews 11:6: “You can never please God without faith, without depending on Him. Anyone who wants to come to God must believe there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely look for him.”
All God asks from us is to trust Him. When we request for something, we should fully believe, have faith, that He is able to do it.
"And we are sure of this, that he will listen to us whenever we ask him for anything in line with his will. And if we really know he is listening when we talk to him and make our requests, then we can be sure that he will answer us." (1st John 5:14-15)
Jesus said even if your faith is like a mustard seed, implying your faith is small; it can still do wonders for you can say to the mountain move from here to there and it will obey. What is this faith? Hebrews 11 explains it: “It is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen. It is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead.”
Hebrews 11 contains stories of men of God who believed beyond doubt, who trusted beyond reasoning that God was more than able to help them. Read it to build your faith, and to have a glimpse of the power of faith.
In reply Jesus said to the disciples, “If you only have faith in God—this is the absolute truth—you can say to this Mount of Olives, ‘Rise up and fall into the Mediterranean,’ and your command will be obeyed. All that’s required is that you really believe and have no doubt! Listen to me! You can pray for anything, and if you believe, you have it; it’s yours! But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive you your sins too.” (Mark 11:22-25)
How to Pray
3) Interceding - Praying For Others
Most of our prayers are self-centered, “I need this,” “Please, God help me in this;” we barely take time to pray for others. In our prayers as much as possible we should remember our brethren in the Lord, our families, friends and those in authority in the government. In fact, it is better to start praying for others then end up praying for your needs.
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:18)
“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. (1st Timothy 2:1-2)
4) A Thankful Heart
You will know what kind of a person one is if the person is unthankful, ungrateful. A lot of us never remember to thank God for everything. We take things for granted: the fact we can talk, smile, eat, walk and see. Some of us, in every prayer we offer to God, we fill Him with our needs, our requests, not devoting part of that time thanking God.
It doesn’t feel good when somebody keeps on asking or requesting for your help without ever uttering the words, “Thank you” after helping them. Next time he comes, you won’t help him. You better offer excuses why it is not possible to help him, but no, you won’t help him. The same rings true in our prayers. If we are always unthankful let us not expect next time to receive what we had asked. Will God still continue to hear us? Yes, but…
A good illustration to show this is the case of the Israelite. They were rescued from the oppressive hands of Egypt and were promised a land, Canaan, flowing with milk and honey. However, those who were saved never saw the Promised Land. A journey that would have taken less than 14 days took 40 years. It is only the children of the parents who saw the Promised Land and a few of the old ones who were not complainers.
It is very hard to forgive someone who has hurt you. However, God makes it clear we should forgive those who wrong us. When God says we should do something, it is for a good reason.
Scientific studies have found out the benefits that are derived from forgiving and the demerits of not forgiving. If you search online you will find loads of both the benefits of forgiveness and demerits of not forgiving. Thereby, as hard as it is to forgive is as best as we should try to forgive. If you find it hard to forgive ask God to help you. Surely, He will assist you.
Remember, if you do not forgive those who have wronged you, God will not forgive you. If God does not forgive then your prayers are in vain. If you want to be forgiven of your sins, then you should forgive those who have hurt you. It is for your own benefit, not God or the person who hurt you.
“…first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins too.” (Mark 11:22-25)
6) Vain Repetitions
The Bible encourages us to pray regularly. As often as we can we should always pray. Nonetheless, we should avoid repeating words or phrases for no good reason. If you don’t have anything more to say then don’t repeat what you had said. God is not deaf that one should repeat words often so He hears well. God knows us better than we know ourselves. God knows what we are going to say. Be direct, don’t mince with words.
It is not a matter if you can pray for a long period of time. It is what you are praying for. Whether the prayer is short or long doesn’t matter. The content matters. Long prayers is when you are interceding but it doesn’t have repetition of words.
“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” (Mathew 6:7)
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:6-7).
“Be joyful always; pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Lack of a thankful heart, being proud, not acknowledging God and having not an expectant heart are some of the reasons why we do not receive what we ask. This includes having a double mind (doubtful), and,
“It is because we don’t pray according to the Holy Spirit’s will.” This means we pray for our own selfish desires. We pray for things to please us for all the wrong reasons. You need a car? No problem? But what for? To show off? Nah, you won’t het it! At times our requests are not answered because God deems the time is not yet. At other times God has good reasons not to grant our requests.
“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:3)
The Lord's Prayer - An Example of a Prayer
The Lord's Prayer is not a prayer we are supposed to utter during praying. It was an example Jesus gave to his disciples to show how we should pray. This resulted from the disciples asking Jesus to teach them how to pray.
The prayer starts with exhalations. That is how we are supposed to start our prayers. By thanking God. By praising Him. By acknowledging who He is. Showing our gratitude.
The second step is to pray for the saints of God and those in government including our friends, loved ones and other people.
The third step is to pray for our needs.
The fourth step is to ask for forgiveness as we repent of our sins. Also, we should remember to ask God to help us to have the strength to forgive those who we find hard to forgive for the wrong they did us. Remember, if you don't forgive those who have wronged you, God cannot forgive you.
"In reply Jesus said to the disciples, “If you only have faith in God—this is the absolute truth—you can say to this Mount of Olives, ‘Rise up and fall into the Mediterranean,’ and your command will be obeyed. All that’s required is that you really believe and have no doubt! Listen to me! You can pray for anything, and if you believe, you have it; it’s yours! But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive you your sins too.” (Mark 11:22-25)
Then, we should ask God to help us in our daily lives to live according to His will, to help us in our weaknesses, strengthen us, help us in areas we are easily tempted, and to guide us.
Lastly, we end up thanking God for hearing our prayers and praising Him for who He is and what He is going to do.
The steps should not be followed in that order but we should aim to begin our prayers with thanking and praising God, and end with the same.
Bible Verses On Prayer
1 John 5:14
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, he hears us.
Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
1 John 5:15
And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.
And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.
I call on you, My God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.
2 Chronicles 7:14
If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
He will respond to the prayer of destitute; he will not despise their plea.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
1 Timothy 2:8
Therefore I want men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.
When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
Benefits of Prayer
- It draws us closer to God, that is, it bonds our relationship to a deeper level. We get to know God more than what is indicated in the Bible.
- It aids in the healing process of the wound – hurt – inflicted in our hearts by someone.
- It aids in attaining peace of mind and heart.
- It aids in being able to make clear or wise decisions in our everyday life.
- It comforts us in situations we feel sad, discouraged, lonely, hurt and depressed.
- It strengthens our faith and therein our resolves to push on no matter what.
- It develops in us the spirit of patience.
- It renews our hope.
- It increases our confidence.
- We learn to crucify our flesh.
- We learn step by step how to pray effectively and what to pray for.
- We learn to hear the voice of God.
- It helps us to control our thoughts.
- We learn what God wants us to pray for.
- We feel the lightness of burden that was weighing heavily on our shoulders. Jesus said we should cast our burdens unto Him. We do so through prayers. Such burdens might include bitterness, anger and worry.
- We learn how not to be selfish by praying for others. Thus, we learn how to have the heart of God.
- It assists us to remain focused, disciplined and determined in our Christian life and in fulfilling our goals and dreams.
- It helps us to understand God better and His love for the lost people.