What is prayer, and is there a right and wrong way to pray?
From the example of Jesus and others whose prayers are recorded in the Bible, we see that prayer is simply talking or conversing with God. We also know that there are right and wrong ways to pray because Jesus said so.
In Matthew 6:5 Jesus explained, “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 others.” He goes on in verses 7-8, “And when 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.”
Then, beginning in verse 9, Jesus said, “This, then, is how you should pray:” and then He prayed the short prayer that we’ve come to call “The Lord’s Prayer.” (Notice that He didn’t say, “Pray this prayer,” though there’s nothing wrong with doing so. Instead, His intent was, “Pray like this.”)
Prayer, or conversing with the Lord, is a key element of our relationship with Him. Without communication between two persons, there can be no relationship. Our relationship with God requires communication, and prayer and the Word of God are two modes of communication available to us.
But many Christians don’t know how to pray, what to pray for, or are confused about prayer. Prayer, especially in front of others, can be intimidating if we think our prayers are inadequate or that we’re supposed to follow some protocol that we don’t understand. Here are 7 simple tips for praying.
7 Simple Tips for Praying
- Consider using the ACTS acronym. “A” stands for adoration. Take time in your prayer to adore or praise God. “C” stands for confession. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) “T” stands for thanksgiving. Spend time thanking God for everything He has given you and is doing in your life. “S” stands for supplication, which is a fancy word for “prayer requests.”
- Get in the habit of praying often. Pray when you get up in the morning. Greet the Lord and dedicate the day to Him. Pray throughout the day, just conversing with the Lord as you would a close friend (which He is!). Pray at mealtimes, thanking Him for your food. Pray before bed. In summary, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” (Colossians 4:2)
- Talk to God about everything. Peter urges us to, “Cast all our cares on Him, because He cares for us.” (1 Peter 5:7) There’s nothing too big or too small to take to the Lord in prayer. If you have children, think what a delight it is for you to have your child talk to you. Even when they’re very young, it’s such a joy to engage in their simple conversations. Now, remember, you are a child of God and He delights in conversing with us.
- Be still and listen. Psalm 37:7 tells us, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.” Think about a healthy conversation between two people who enjoy each other’s company. Their conversation is not one-sided. This is true of prayer as well. Prayer is not a monologue. Sit quietly before the Lord and listen. Enjoy His presence. Learn to perceive the voice of the Holy Spirit and listen to Him. (See 1 Samuel 3:1-21.)
- Pray for others. James tells us, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16) Pray for those who don’t know the Lord yet. Pray for your family. Pray for followers of Christ who are being persecuted around the world. Pray for our President and other officials. Paul urged, “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 Lord’s people. Pray also for me.” (Ephesians 6:18-19)
- Pray with others. Praying with others can be frustrating sometimes if we’re trying to impress each other. But if we truly want to pray together in the Lord, I’ve found these guidelines to be extremely helpful:
- Pray short phrase or sentence prayers.
- Piggyback on each other’s prayers.
- Keep your prayers vertical, directed toward God, not each other.
- Listen to the Holy Spirit and each other.
- Stay on topic until it seems right to change.
- Use Psalms as a prayer guide. Many of the Psalms are prayers. You can memorize some of them and pray them back to God with heartfelt sincerity. Jesus did this. Consider these examples:
- “Answer me when I call to You, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer.” (Psalm 4:1)
- “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:1)
- “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)
- “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?” (Psalm 27:1)
- “Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You.” (Psalm 73:25)
- “Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name.” (Psalm 103:1)
Praying is not a mystery. It’s simply conversing with our heavenly Father. Draw near to Him in prayer. Express your love to Him. Ask Him for help. Give Him your plans and aspirations.
Finally, know that your prayers are so precious to God! In Revelation 5:8, in a heavenly scene at the throne of God, the four living creatures are holding golden bowls full of incense that are the prayers of God’s people.
©2019 Rob Fischer