How to Pray
Yesterday, we noted that the first things the disciples did after Jesus ascended into heaven was pray. They understood that prayer has to be the first order of business for every Christ-follower because we all need God’s help. Prayer is how we get the help we need.
Now sometimes we need to pray privately and really pour out our soul to God. Jesus often did this (and he had to work hard to get away from the crowds). You can read about one such instance in Mark 1:35-38. Jesus encouraged us to find a place where we too can be by ourselves and close the door and pray alone. You can read about that in Matthew 6:5-14.
But sometimes we need to get together and pray, and that is the example we see in Acts 2:14. As a pastor, God has laid it on my heart to encourage our church to spend more time in prayer together as we continue to grow. I’m not suggesting we add more things to our calendars; I’m saying that while doing the things we are already doing together, let’s focus more on prayer. Our elder team and staff is leading the way by spending more time in prayer. Life Groups can spend less time taking prayer requests and more time on the actual act of prayer. Men’s gatherings, women’s Bible studies, students and children, we can all place a greater emphasis on this most essential of Christian acts.
Let me provide some important theological guidance for praying. You don’t have to be eloquent to pray. Our prayers should be simple, honest, from the heart, and informed by Scripture. This is what Timothy Keller calls “intelligent mysticism,” a phrase he borrowed from another theologian, John Murray. “It is necessary for us to recognize that there is an intelligent mysticism in the life of faith…. That means an encounter with God that involves not only the affections of the heart but also the convictions of the mind” (Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God). In other words our prayers must be heart-felt (from the heart) but also from the mind, which means they need to be informed by Scripture!
If you are struggling to know how to pray, the best way to learn how is to start incorporating what you are learning from hearing sermons and reading Scripture. In fact, you can take biblical truths and turn them into prayers. Here are some examples:
“Lord, give me wisdom in this trial,
I don’t know what to do.”
from James 1:2-5
“Lord, I have been wronged,
I plead with you for justice.”
from Luke 18:1-8
“Lord, the Evil One wants to harm me today.
Please protect me from him.”
from Matthew 6:13
“Lord, I pray for my friend who is sick.
Bring complete healing to her.”
from James 5:15
“Lord, bless my children.
Keep watch over them,
make your face shine upon them,
turn toward them, and give them peace.”
from Numbers 6
“Lord, we bring our offering to you today.
Look down from heaven and bless us
for our good and your glory.”
from Numbers 26:15
Scripture teaches us how to pray! (You can find more guidance on the topic of prayer at my devotional blog: www.calvarydevos.net.) I’m not saying your prayers have to be verbatim from Scripture, but they should be informed it. Prayer should be rooted in good theology so that we are not asking for or expecting what God cannot or will not provide. And prayers should be from the heart and express to God how much we absolutely need him. If we are going to do what God wants us to do—be like Jesus and share his gospel with others—we need God’s help!