How to Pray: Part 1
Fundamental to our relationship with God is prayer. In my previous series on prayer we noticed that prayer isn’t about giving God a wish list, but it is about connecting with God. We feel frustrated with our prayer lives because we have made our prayers about help me, give to me, bless me rather than cultivating our relationship with our heavenly Father. When we remember this our prayer life will become more dynamic than frustrating.
In order to make prayer about connecting with God we have to remember where the focus of our prayers need to be. One of the ways to determine the focus of our prayers is to ask ourselves questions:
Is prayer about us or is about God? Are we praying out or religious obligation or out of a desire to connect with God? Is prayer a religious activity or is it an act of faith in a good and loving God? Are my prayers about me or are they about God?
For orthodox Jews and Muslims set times of prayer are a part of their lives. It is partially through this rigid devotion to prayer that they learn to prayer. There also memorized prayers they are to learn for certain occasions in life. These memorized prays serve as a model on how they are to pray.
Though we are not quite so rigid in our expectations of prayer we do share some things in common. We have expectations of when prayers are to be said. We have the prayers we say at meal time. These prayers may go something like this: Lord, Bless this bunch, while we munch our lunch. Amen.
Or a little more serious prayer might sound like this:
Loving Father, we thank you for this food, And for all your blessings to us. Lord Jesus, come and be our guest, And take your place at this table. Holy Spirit, as this food feeds our bodies, So we pray you would nourish our souls. Amen
We also have the prayers we say before going to bed. A common one that many people learned as a child goes:
Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.
Another bedtime prayer I found says:
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, Bless this bed that I lay on. Before I lay me down to sleep, I give my soul to Christ to keep. Four corners to my bed, Four angels 'round my head, One to watch, one to pray, And two to bear my soul away. I go by sea, I go by land, The Lord made me with his right hand, If any danger come to me, Sweet Jesus Christ, deliver me. For he's the branch and I'm the flower, Pray God send me a happy hour, And if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.I would imagine that many of us learned to pray through the use of such models plus the prayers we heard at church. Nobody ever took us aside to explain to us the details of prayer. In fact the idea seems a little silly to us, after all prayer is talking to God, and so all we have to do is tell God what is on our minds and in our hearts.
Previously we noticed that Jesus placed more importance on prayer than that. He took time to teach His followers, religious people who had praying their entire lives, how to pray.
5 “And whenever you pray, don't be like the hypocrites who love to stand in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they will be seen by people. Truly I tell you, they have their full reward! 6 But whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7 “When you are praying, don't say meaningless words like the Gentiles do, for they think they will be heard because of their wordiness. 8 Don't be like them, because your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:5-8; ISV)
Jesus wanted to make sure that when they prayed they connected with their Heavenly Father. So when we pray place is very important. We need to pray in a certain place that is free of distractions where we can be open and honest with God.
We also learned that prayer is not about a formula. There are no special words to use or chants to say that will get God to do our bidding. Prayer is really opening up our hearts in order to have a conversation with God: telling Him our hopes, fears, problems, concerns, joys, and success. There are no right or wrong words when it comes to prayer.
When it comes to prayer what is important is our desire to connect with God and our faith that He is there to hear us. Prayer is about connecting with God and seeking His will.
- Point to Ponder: Prayer is about cultivating our relationship with our heavenly Father.
- Passage to Remember: Matthew 6:5-8
- Question to Consider: Are you praying out of religious obligation or a desire to connect with God?