Have you ever noticed the amount of material available today on prayer? Taught in seminary, online and to lay people, it is a prevalent theme in our culture. What is it about communication with God that requires so much commentary? For thousands of years of human history, this concept has inspired so much thought and effort; there are countless suggested ways to pray.
Prayer does not come easy, it is a learned skill. Perhaps that is why, in the NIV version of the Bible, there are over 520 references to it, so many examples to learn from. Some of the most influential passages in Scripture are recorded prayers from Moses, Hannah, David and the Prophets. In watching Jesus pray, the Disciples were struck that there was something different about the way He did it. So, in Luke 11:1, they asked Him to teach them. That prayer set the standard as what we call “The Lord’s Prayer.”
At some point in your walk, your prayer time must become your own. There will be seasons when you pray one way, and in the next, another. But doing it daily is how we access our power source - the joy of The Lord (Nehemiah 8:10). It is how we make it in this life. No wonder the Disciples wanted to be shown how!
There are a few key elements involved in a dedicated prayer time. I’m referring to those times focused on communion with God, although certainly, prayer can happen at any time of the day or night. It can certainly be formless, unspoken (Romans 8:26-27). Prayer is as individual as the person praying - and in getting started, I’ve discovered three aspects to “know how” to pray:
1. Know how to get to God. There is a definitive pathway to The Lord, we cannot approach the throne without caution. He is the Creator, The Sovereign Lord – our ancestors learned that to approach Him without reverence ended in certain death. Jesus paved the way for us to approach The Lord without that fear. Praying and believing in His Name is the bridge to our Heavenly Father.
2. How to get prayers heard. There are times when our prayers do not reach God’s ears. Scripture is clear aspects of our lives can block our prayers including: sinful thoughts and behavior (Isaiah 59:1-2); disobedience (1 John 3:21-23); unforgiveness (Matthew 6:14-15); and not asking or asking with wrong motives (James 4:2-3). To use a cue from King David, we must ensure we ask The Lord to reveal whatever maybe lurking in our hearts and minds – then confess it (Psalm 139:23).
3. How to get results. Perhaps the most difficult part of prayer is awaiting The Lord’s answer. We want it immediately and our way, but Isaiah 55:8-9 is clear God does not think or act like we would. Often His “yes’s” are only apparent in reflection or it could even be a “no” or “not now.” His answers come in unexpected ways and only in His timing. The best advice, stated over 20 times in Scripture, is to wait on God’s to answer. To wait patiently in hope, believing He will answer and it will be for our best.
How we commune with God, how He comes close to us through His Spirit, is a mystery. But it is a daily mystery we must explore. Through prayer, we are changed. Prayer helps us to become further like His Son and gives us the strength to show others the way to Him too.