It’s so easy to worry about any and everything in life. In fact, the devil does his best to get us to do just that. From finances, to relationships, to our kids, to our health, there is plenty to worry, stress over and be anxious about it. Things can even be going great in your life, and yet and still, thoughts of worry can creep up into your mind.
So when life happens and stresses us out, what do we do? As Christians, how do we pray? Do we know what to pray for? What to say to God? How to approach Him?
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God has been teaching me so much lately about how to make simple prayers my knee-jerk reaction to life's worries. However, learning to react to life with prayer instead of worry is not something that happens overnight. But, it is something that every Christian has the capability to do, with the help and power of the Holy Spirit within us.
We can all learn exactly how to pray - according to the bible.
What is Prayer?
So often Christians tend to over complicate what prayer is. Which is why some of us shy away from it in the first place. We think prayer is some well written script with biblical terms that we put together so that it sounds "holy" for God.
But in basic terms, prayer is simply talking to God. Its a conversation with Him.
Prayer is not a speech, or a formal monologue that we have to write out first and practice. Truth be told, we don't even have to bow our heads or close our eyes to pray! Just start a conversation.
God is our heavenly Father and we are His children. He has given us total and complete access to Him 24/7. Yet, next to His Word, prayer is the other most powerful tool that goes neglected among Christians.
Oh we know how to cry out to him when trouble or problems strike. But even that is usually not until we have hit a brick wall and exhausted all other avenues. Then, we turn to God as a last resort because we can't fix things on our own.
But how do we talk to God? What exactly do we say to Him?
How to Pray
When it comes to learning how to pray according to the bible, there are a few key things to keep in mind.
1. Don't try to sound like someone you're not
God chose us, and therefore, He knows us. He knows our personality. We don't need to change our voice, tone, accent or vocabulary just to pray.
For example, there is no reason for a simple prayer like "God, thank you so much for waking me up today" to translate into: "Most excellent Heavenly Father in the great skies above, thank you kindly for your outstretched hand upon my earthen vessel in allowing me to breathe the oxygen of life and be alive to see another 24-hour period on this great planet earth that belongs to you".
Now that sounds a bit extreme, but trust me, when I say, that so many people try to formalize the verbiage of their prayers because they want to sound holy. Matthew 6:7-8 says:
In other words, God being God, already knows what you need or want before you even open your mouth to talk to Him. So its really no need to try to impress God or anyone else, by packaging up your prayer into some long, elaborate script that doesn't even sound like you.
God simply wants us to acknowledge His presence in our lives. And we do that by talking to Him. And when we talk to Him, we should be authentic. In fact, a big part of learning how to pray effectively, is to learning to be authentic.
2. Don't talk to God as if He's an ordinary person
Yes, God wants us to be ourselves when we pray. However, we must also remember who we are talking to when we pray. God is not one of our pals, buddies, or friends that we sit and chill with. He's God! So in our authenticity, we must also exhibit respect when we talk to God. The bible uses the term fear in many instances to describe how our attitude and approach should be towards God.
Psalms 128:1 (NIV): "Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him".
Fear in this case is not being afraid. Godly fear means to revere and worship God and be respectful of Him because of who He is.
You want to know how to pray to God correctly? We should ALWAYS approach God with reverence for who He is.
3. Follow Jesus' example of prayer
There is no one way to pray, as there are several different ways to pray. The question most ask is 'what should we pray for?' When Jesus was teaching his disciples, he taught them exactly how they should pray:
We all know this as the Lord's prayer, and oftentimes will recite it word for word. However, this prayer was meant as a guide for the key things we should be talking to God about. A model prayer to show us what we should pray for. Let's take a look, line by line:
- "Our Father, in heaven, hallowed be your name" - giving reverence and honor to God is almost always a great place to start any prayer. It doesn't have to be in these exact words, but simply start by telling God thank you and acknowledging His presence in your life......in your own words.
- "Your kingdom come, your will be done" - we always tend to go to God about what we want (our will for our lives). But let's not forget to ask God for His will to be done in our lives.
- "Give us today our daily bread" - we may have a long list of wants, but the bible promises to supply all of our needs. Lets not forget to ask Him for that and thank Him when He does provide.
- "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors" - we should be acknowledging our sins, asking for forgiveness and forgiving others - daily. We can't sit and name every sinful word, thought or deed we have done in a day, but we can certainly ask in a general way for God to forgive us for anything we have done to sin against Him. However, those things we absolutely know we did wrong (as in they stand out to you), we should definitely be specific in asking for forgiveness. After all, the definition of confess is to state or admit what you did wrong, and agree with God that it is sin.
- "Lead us not into temptation" - we should be praying for God's help not to fall into temptation to sin. And we know our weaknesses and what tempts us, so we should be specific when we pray.
- "Deliver us from the evil one" - we should be praying for protection from our enemy, the devil, because he is ALWAYS on the attack. Whether its our mind, our flesh, our home, our health, our finances, or our spiritual growth - Satan will be coming after something!
As you can see, Jesus' prayer was a simple prayer. Short and sweet, yet very focused and direct. There are many things we can ask God for, but what are our priorities? How often are such things as these included in our prayers?
How much time do we spend just praising him for who He is? Asking Him to do His will in our lives? How often do we thank Him for all the things He has provided for us?
Do we ever confess our sins, and ask for forgiveness? When was the last time you prayed for Him to help you forgive someone? Are we even concerned about falling into temptation or protection from the tricks of the enemy?
How should we pray according to the bible? What should we pray for? Follow Jesus' model of prayer and you can't go wrong! I guarantee when you prioritize your spiritual growth and God's will for your life, then all the other things that you want or desire will follow.
4. Keep it simple
There is no rule that says how long a prayer has to last, or how many words a prayer must contain. True prayer is authentic and from the heart. God already knows what's on our minds, but He wants us to talk to Him about it anyway. Talking to God not only shows that we acknowledge His presence in our lives, but it also shows that we trust Him. That we have faith that He can and will answer our prayers.
Sometimes, you won't have much time to pray. So your prayer before a meeting at work that you're nervous about, might be as simple as "God please let this be good news".
Other times you might have to have a much needed discussion with someone that you've been dreading talking to because you don't want the confrontation. Your prayer might be as simple as "God please just give me the right words to say and the right approach."
Then there are times where you are at your wit's end and genuinely don't know what to do and all you can say is "God, please help me."
When I drop my son off to school daily, I always say "God watch over Him and keep him safe, focused, out of trouble, and help him make good decisions".
You see, prayer is that simple. The excuses we make about not having time, or a quiet place, being too busy, or not knowing what to say, all go out the window when it comes to prayer. When you start saying simple prayers and having short conversations with God throughout your day, it becomes natural. A habit. Before you know it, you begin to realize you're always talking to God about something. And that is how we build our relationship with Him!
Now there will be times where we do set aside time to pray. We may have a prayer list, or go to a prayer meeting/gathering, or may be in a period of prayer and fasting. The point here, is that we don't need to wait until prayer time is "scheduled" in order for us to talk to God.
Whatever the case, prayer is never wasted time. I often talk to God while I'm cleaning at home. And that may be for 2-3 hours! Whether its a two word prayer or a 3 hour long prayer, as Christians, we all need to talk to God. Again, there are several different ways to pray. But, whether the prayer is long or short, we can still keep it simple - authentic, direct, focused, and full of faith.
When & Where to Pray
Now that we have covered what prayer is and how to pray, let's take a look at what the bible says about when we should pray and where to pray.
1. God wants us to talk to Him continually
How many times does the bible say to pray?
God wants us to talk to Him as often as possible. Morning, afternoon, and night. Remember, its all about building our relationship with Him.
We all know how awkward it is when you try to force a relationship with someone. You never know what to say around the person. There is no reason for us to have that issue in our relationship with God.
James 4:8 (NIV) says: “When you draw close to God, God will draw close to you”.
What better way is there to get closer to God than by spending more time reading His Word and talking to Him regularly. Remember, prayers can be simple and sweet. Therefore, talking to God continually throughout the day is very do-able.
2. There is no special location required for prayer
Where should we pray? Are there certain designated places for prayer?
There is no special place you have to go in order to pray. You are not required to be at church or in the presence of a pastor or minister.
That's the beauty of being able to talk to God. You can pray while doing the dishes, taking a shower, doing laundry, while at the grocery store, at school, at work, or while driving down the highway. It really doesn't matter what you are doing or where you find yourself. God is always there to listen and He wants us to talk to Him!
In short, we can talk to God anytime, anywhere. That is how to pray, according to the bible.
Making Prayer A Knee-Jerk Reaction
So how do we take all this and turn this praying thing into daily habit? How do we make simple prayers a knee-jerk reaction for when things in life tend to not go our way?
1. Recognize "worry" mode
About four years ago, God started to deal with me heavily on the topic of prayer. I was getting more and more into writing for my blog, ministry with kids, and just growing in my walk with God. I had gotten to a point where I felt like Satan had become fixated on that area of my life, because he knew that God was strengthening me in regards to prayer.
Just when I thought I was learning to talk to God more and let my everyday problems, circumstances and issues just roll off my back, the devil tried a new tactic. He started getting me to worry about the future and stuff that could happen. I started to get plagued with "what if" thoughts out of the blue like:
- What if your truck breaks down for real this week? How are you going to get a new car?
- You don’t want your son going to public school for middle school do you? That’s when they change for the worse.
- How are you going to afford to send him to college when he turns 18?
- More and more family members are being diagnosed with cancer; what if you’re next?
- What if your job starts laying off people? You haven’t even begun to rebuild your savings back up yet.
- What if you die tomorrow? Did you revise your will? Is your life insurance current?
- What if something bad happens to mom or dad? How are you going to take care of them?
After these thoughts continued for a few weeks, effecting my mood, my conversation, and my day to day responsibilities, I realized what the enemy was trying to do. I was upset at myself for letting it go that long.
2. Grab your bible and pray!
Then I did what I already knew to do, but had momentarily forgotten, as we Christians sometimes do. I went to God in prayer and picked up His Word. Yes, its that simple! And here is the exact passage He directed me to:
Matthew 6:25-34 (TLB): "So my counsel is: Don’t worry about things—food, drink, and clothes. For you already have life and a body—and they are far more important than what to eat and wear. Look at the birds! They don’t worry about what to eat—they don’t need to sow or reap or store up food—for your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than they are. Will all your worries add a single moment to your life?
And why worry about your clothes? Look at the field lilies! They don’t worry about theirs. Yet King Solomon in all his glory was not clothed as beautifully as they. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won’t he more surely care for you, O men of little faith? So don’t worry at all about having enough food and clothing. Why be like the heathen? For they take pride in all these things and are deeply concerned about them. But your heavenly Father already knows perfectly well that you need them, and he will give them to you if you give him first place in your life and live as he wants you to.
So don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time."
What a refresher! And boy did I need that exact passage!
Now granted, it’s not that we don’t need to be concerned about most of the things that creep up in our minds (such as those I listed). We all know life is a challenge and everyday presents its own version of that challenge. However, the beauty of having a relationship with God, is that we don’t have to live life like those who don’t have a relationship with Him.
He has given us direct access to Him and we can go to Him in prayer anytime. We also have His Word so that He can speak to us anytime. When we utilize these two things together, there is nothing we can’t handle.
3. Realize that challenges won't disappear
So what it comes down to is this: Life is hard and will continue to be hard! But in the midst of this life, we have a choice to make each day. We can take our concerns and turn them into worries, which will lead to stress, anxiety, anger, and coping mechanisms that will produce other issues. OR, we can take our concerns to God in prayer and leave them with Him. After all, its not like we can solve them on our own anyway.
4. Trust that your "simple" prayers are also "powerful" prayers
Its also important to realize that our "simple" prayers are also powerful prayers.
James 5:16 (NIV): "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective."
Despite what you may have heard or even seen on television, the bible is clear about God being most concerned about our heart and attitude when we talk to Him, rather than the length or usage of "holy verbiage" in our prayers. Our simple, one line prayers are powerful prayers that work, and can move mountains when said in faith.
Never underestimate the power and impact of prayers!
Remember, as I had to learn, this is a daily choice that we have to make. The best way to prepare is to start praying now: “Lord help me to develop the knee-jerk reaction of prayer, so that anytime I face a situation that causes me to worry, doubt, or get frustrated, that I will talk to you first and foremost.”
Don't forget you won't completely develop this habit overnight. There will be moments, and days where you just don't handle challenges as well as you should. Times when you will get frustrated and worry - a lot. The goal is to get to a point where we have less and less of those days. And with the help of the Holy Spirit within us and the guidance of God's Word, we can and will get there.
Remember, there is no challenge of life that God can't handle. Talk to God about your problems and everything else. Again, there are many things to pray for. Start praying prayers to change situations:
- prayer for help and guidance
- prayer in desperate times of need
- prayer for a specific problem you're having
- prayer in times of tragedy
- prayer for change in your life
- prayer for friends and family
- prayer for deliverance from sin or bad habits
- prayers for your health
The list is endless. The more we learn to seek God's Word and go to Him in prayer, the less time we will have to worry.
Let us stop allowing the enemy to steal our love, joy, and peace. Let's start sounding like we know how to pray - according to the bible. And let's start making simple prayers our knee-jerk reaction to life!
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