Lately, I’ve been trying to introduce more healthy disciplines back into my life–things like exercise, healthy eating, and prayer. I’m not ashamed to say it, prayer doesn’t come easily for me. When I say that it is surprising to my friends. “Aren’t you a pastor,” they say. “Isn’t it part of your job to pray?” Well, no.
Prayer is more than a job function, it’s an important part of every Christ-followers life. However, it’s not easy. Most of the people that I’ve spoken with over the years admit that they have trouble remembering to pray. Many also say they don’t know exactly how to pray. I can relate.
Here are four easy, yet important reminders on what and how we can become better at prayer.
“Oh sovereign Lord, exalted high in the heavenly realms, we beseech thee in our great time of need, thou art our protector, and thou art protector…”
That’s a pretty fancy prayer.
Growing up in a pretty conservative church, I got used to hearing people pray these kinds of King James Version of prayers.
Have you ever heard anyone pray like that? It’s as if they think God will listen better if they speak in the language of the Bible and use big words. But the opposite is true. When Jesus was giving his disciples a lesson on prayer, he told them to avoid complicated and verbose prayers.
“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.” (Matthew 6:7 ESV)
Instead, pray as you speak. Use the same words and avoid trying to people with flowery language and advanced vocabulary. You might think others find you, but it certainly does not impress God.
Fancy prayers are one of the reasons that many people don’t like to pray because they don’t think they’re any good at praying.
One of the shortest verses in the Bible might also be one of the most difficult to follow. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul writes, “Pray without ceasing.” Many people misunderstand this verse because they don’t know what prayer is.
Prayer is more than just rattling off a list of requests with folded hands, bowed head, and closed eyes. Even though there is nothing wrong with closed eyes and bowed head, you don’t have to pray that way.
To pray continually, you must shift your understanding of what it means to pray. Pray is more than a small, short conversation with God; it can also be a permanent connection—a subconscious reality where every action, every thought, and every word you say is a sort of prayer.
That may sound like cheating to some people, but otherwise, how would you be able to remain in a constant state of prayer?
If you’re a parent, you’ve probably been in a situation where your child has begged for something incessantly. Kids have a way of asking for things over and over again without getting tired of asking! After they whine for hours and hours, it’s hard not to give in.
When Jesus was teaching his disciples about prayer, he told them a parable about a widow who needed justice. We don’t know what happened to her, but we know she went to the local judge over and over again with a simple request, “Grant me justice against my adversary” (Luke 18:3 ESV).
But the judge was crooked and unjust. He kept ignoring her request. However, after she continued to make her case, day after day, he finally relented and granted her justice, even though he didn’t genuinely care about her cause. He just wanted her to stop bothering him.
The point Jesus was trying to make was simple. If an unjust judge will grant the request of a woman simply because she asked over and over, how much more will God give to his children when they request things from him?
When you pray, be persistent. You won’t bother God. He won’t grow tired of hearing your request.
Imagine a throne room, like the kind you might see in a movie. Now imagine God’s throne. It has to be impressive, right? I visualize a large stately room with gold floors, jeweled walls, with lightning shooting out from behind God’s throne. Most likely, whatever you and I can imagine is probably paltry compared to God’s real throne.
Now imagine coming to God in that same room with your request. You might feel hesitant to walk forward and speak your mind. After all, this is God.
But the writer of Hebrews tells his audience that we have permission to throw the doors of the room wide open (figuratively). He/she says, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God…Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV see full passage).
I love the idea of being able to come to God with confidence. Think of it, throughout most of history, only the high priest was allowed to approach God, and when he did, he did so carefully and with trepidation. But now we can come before God boldly.
So, what kind of prayers do you pray? Do you struggle to pray because you don’t know the “right” words to use? If so, keep it simple and talk to God precisely like you talk to anyone else.
Is it hard for you to remember to pray? Begin looking at prayer differently—more than individual conversations with God—start seeing prayer as a constant connection to God. Then, I encourage you to bring your requests to God boldly and without hesitation. It might take some time to get used to it, but the