Often people new to the Christian faith express an awkwardness about prayer. It can feel weird to talk to an entity you cannot see. Then after getting past that you are faced with the fear of praying in public. There are times as a seasoned Christian that a sense of insecurity rises up in me when praying publicly. Not to minimize the feeling but it is natural to feel self-conscious about public speaking and that includes praying publicly.
Many people have told me they don’t know how to pray. Prayer is having a conversation with God. As my wife reminds me, a conversation requires talking and listening. It is a learned discipline that requires practice to get good at. There are no magic formulas or phases that make one prayer superior to another. Like conversation, prayer does not need to be lengthy to be beneficial or meaningful. Ever notice how old friends can easily communicate with just a few words and yet they can still find things to talk about for hours? It is the same for talking with God. The more familiar with Him you become the easier it is to pray.
There was a day when the men who walked with Christ on earth asked Jesus to teach them to pray. As a response Jesus gave them a model to follow. The model prayer is found in Matthew 6:9-13 (NIV) 9 This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
For centuries the Lord’s Prayer has been recited and memorized by followers of Christ. Many books and articles have been written about it. Much teaching has been given on it. Yet we still have not fully grasped the incredible power of prayer. For consideration of the model Christ gave us, here is five different expressions of prayer found in the Lord’s Prayer are;
- Praise and adoration. “Or Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” Through adoration and praise, the Holy Spirit shifts our focus away from ourselves and onto God. Praise lifts our eyes above the futility of life and sets the tone for meeting with God.
- Intercessory prayer. “Your kingdom come, your will be done.” An accurate understanding of intercession is developing quietness in the heart, listening for God’s voice, and aligning ourselves, our prayer, with God’s will and purpose.
- Prayer and petition. “Give us today our daily bread”. Bringing our requests to God reminds us of our dependence on Him.
- Prayer of confession. “Forgive us our debts as we forgive.” Sin puts a wall between us and the holy God. This wall must be torn down if we are to experience intimacy with God.
- Spiritual warfare. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Satan (or the evil one) is depicted as a master of disguises, presenting himself as an angel of light. To counter his schemes, we must be well acquainted with the truth. Our battle against Satan is a spiritual battle and must be fought in God’s strength.
The best and really only way to begin a prayer life is start praying. Using the model prayer as a guide can help you find the right thoughts and words when praying. It is easy to be so distracted with everyday life to stay focused when praying. A tip my Pastor gives is when praying talk loud enough to hear yourself, that way you’re less likely to be distracted. This tip is especially valuable when spending time alone in prayer. There are plenty of times during the day to pray silently as well. Remember prayer is a learned discipline.
Staying committed to prayer requires dedication. At times it will be frustrating that some prayers are not answered immediately or in a desired way. Keep praying regardless of your circumstances. If you think prayer is the last resort of a desperate person you have not really experienced its power.
Rev. Burt Schwab