“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”- Philippians 4:6
Prayer can be such a difficult concept to understand. What is it and why do we do it? To many prayer is an undiscovered method of worship, an abstract idea. Many religions even prayer in various ways, reciting mantras, to chants and song. Some practice prayer singularly or in groups or even both, such as in Christianity. There are many elements to the idea of prayer and this can make prayer confusing. It’s something we should do every day, but why?
I grew up in a wonderful Christian family, attended a very solid church with a gifted pastor. Yet it wasn’t until college that I gained a real understanding for what prayer was, and I’m still learning! The transformation of Christ is a lifelong path, and prayer is not something a person can master over night. But it is something a Christian seeking God should be developing every day through practice and petition.
What is Prayer?
It is so important that to be communicating with God, we understand what prayer is. Plainly put, prayer is a direct conversation between us and God where we petition our praises, wants and needs. In prayer we praise God for His authority, plea for the salvation of others, the needs in our life, forgiveness from daily sins and deliverance from temptations that may come our way. The most incredible thing about prayer is that it doesn’t need to pass through a teacher of God’s word in order for God to hear it. When we speak through prayer, God hears us directly. It is an intimate moment in our relationship with Him in which we can come to him in humble and honest worship.
Prayer is Worship
In everything God designed for us there is purpose. In prayer one of the purposes is to worship Him. Jesus instructs us in this worship in Matthew 22:37 when He says “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind“. When we worship through prayer it is a culmination of this command. We are pouring our hearts out to God, while baring our soul with the thoughts and words in our mind. Prayer suddenly becomes an all encompassing experience, transforming the idea from just words to a moment of true worship.
Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.- Hebrews 13:15
As instructed in Hebrews 13:15, praising God through words is a part of our daily practice for prayer. Worshiping God through prayer should be a desire of our hearts, not just something we are ‘supposed ‘ to do. When a parent gives a child a gift, that parent anticipates thanks or gratitude. God has given His children the greatest gift and still continues to bless us daily with the needs of our lives. How much more praise God deserves for all He does for us, even when we are undeserving.
Prayer is Humble
Prayer is not only an act of worship, it is a moment we come with humility before God. It is the action of making less of ourselves, and acknowledging that apart from God we can do nothing, are nothing and have nothing. John Piper says it well in this quote, “Prayer is the open admission that without Christ we can do nothing. And prayer is the turning away from ourselves to God in the confidence that He will provide the help we need. Prayer humbles us as needy and exalts God as wealthy“.
I’m certainly needy and I hear that in my daily prayers when I beg for everything. “God please” turn into God pleas. We may not all fall to our knees in prayer, but that should be the humble posture of our hearts. We are unworthy of God’s goodness and grace, and it humbles us to remember who God is and who we are: imperfect and undeserving made perfect and deserving through the One who is.
Prayer is a Conversation
When we come with our pleas and praises, it is important to know that it is a conversation with God. This may be a weird concept to comprehend, God’s voice isn’t always audible like when you are having a conversation with a friend. But He is no less present. Prayer is as much of a discussion between two beings as any other conversation. One person talks, the other responds. But God is a mysterious God and His responses aren’t always what we expect.
The crucial thing to remember when conversing with God through prayer is that to hear Him, you need to be tuned in to His frequency. You won’t be able to hear an AM station on FM radio. To hear God’s voice, request it! Ask Him in your prayer “God please make your voice known to me, allow me to hear your answer and to understand your response”. Ask and you shall receive (Matthew 7:7-8). God won’t deny you His response, He desires for you to be seeking Him and He will be faithful with an answer.
Prayer is Honest
Prayer isn’t only a humble worship through conversation, prayer is also honest. It’s a chance for you to come before God and really lay your heart out before Him. God may already know what’s in your heart and on your mind, but He loves when we are honest with Him about how we feel. In any relationship honesty is a key element and in our relationship with God honesty is just as (if not more) important!
We can be honest with God about our struggles, our sins, if we are angry with family, friends or even God himself. God wants us to be vulnerable, He desires that closeness and for us to feel as though He is a good Father we can trust in. Our honesty with God is a direct demonstration of our trust in Him. We know He won’t condemn us for our honesty and those admissions transfer that burden from us, and allow us to give it to God, relying on Him fully.
“Our honesty with God is a direct demonstration of our trust in Him”.
How to Pray
For a new believer how to pray is a huge question. And even for someone who has been a believer for decades, prayer can become lackluster when repetition takes precedence. If you Google ‘how to pray’ many models of prayer pop in the results. There is the J.O.Y. model (Jesus, Others, Yourself), ACTS model (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication), the 5 finger method and so many more. While none of these models are bad, to understand how to pray we need to look first and foremst to the Bible.
In Matthew 6:9-13 Jesus sat with His 12 disciples on the eve of His crucifixion. Together they sat, broke bread, drank of one cup and Jesus prayed a prayer that is familiar to most.
The Lord’s prayer is specifically given to us by Jesus himself as the best model for prayer. He even opens this familiar passage with instructions of “This, then is how you should pray” (Matthew 6:9a). From these 4 verses we have the perfect model for prayer! And each line gives us a model for a petition in our prayer. To understand these petitions I called my Dad… because he is legit Bible smart. And of course his answers were concise, wise and Biblically sound.
In Jesus’ prayer in Matthew 6:9-13, there is 1 model of prayer consisting of 6 parts. Jesus of course does everything with great intention, so the order in which He prayed with His disciples matters greatly. In Matthew 6:9 He opens with “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name”. This part of verse 9 is the first part of prayer and is demonstrated to give God praise. Just as prayer is worship, this opening of our prayer takes the focus off ourselves and acknowledges the goodness and greatness of our Heavenly Father.
Then in Matthew 6:10a Jesus continues with “your kingdom come”. This second part of His prayer is a reflection of prayer for the salvation of others. This could be loved ones, those close to us, friends, relatives or even world leaders. We pray for their salvation because it is a way for us to demonstrate our love for them. We should care deeply for the souls of the unbelievers, especially when we know what awaits them.
Jesus goes on to say in that same verse “your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”. We pray for the acceptance of God’s will, for those He chooses for His kingdom, for the plans He has for our lives, for the unexpected events that we don’t understand. God doesn’t always give us the reason for circumstances, but through faith and prayer He grants peace for the things we cannot change.
In verse 11 the prayer changes from the praises of God, the petition of others to the needs of ourselves, “Give us today our daily bread”. Bread, as demonstrated at the last supper and the crucifixion carries a double meaning. The literal meaning of bread is sustenance, prayer for the things we need day to day. Prayer for clothing, shelter, food, care. Metaphorically the bread represents complete reliance on God for all things, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Physically we rely on God to provide our needs. Emotionally we rely on God for stability, hope and grace. Mentally we rely on God to know right from wrong and discern our actions and words. Spiritually we rely on God to transform us in His image, to become reflections of Christ and to bridge the gap sin created.
Verse 12 extends to our weaknesses “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors”. Prayer is meant as a time of honesty, for us to come before God and lay at His feet our sins and defeats. We are called to ask for forgiveness for our missteps and sins. And we are equally called to forgive others, just as God has forgiven us.
The Lord’s prayer ends with prayer for deliverance “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one”. Because we rely on God for all things, only He can equip us against the ploys of Satan. This models prayers for delivery from those temptations that will inevitably meet us.
How God Answers Prayer
God never leaves you empty and He will always answer your prayer. But it’s significant to pray for peace for whatever that answer may be (Matthew 6:10b). This is why Jesus gave us the model for prayer as He said “your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”. We need to understand and believe that God knows best, that His will is supreme, even if it isn’t the answer we want.
There are 3 answers God gives to prayer; yes, no and not right now. How we respond to those answers are indications of our trust in Him. If He answers us with yes, our immediate response should be praise! Yes, God blessed you with your request, He is a giving and gracious God and all gifts received from Him should be met with adoration, worship and praise. If His answer is no, it can be difficult to understand. But God doesn’t give us everything we want. He gives us everything we need.
Joni Earikson Tada may be a familiar name and is an incredible woman of faith. Joni suffers from paraplegia and for many years, she prayed for healing. The pain she suffers is great, and her pleas to God for relief were greater. But God’s answer to the physical healing she prayed for many years was not what she wanted to hear. God answered her with no. As difficult as this was for Joni to hear, God answered her with something she did not expect. Though God said no to healing her physically, God chose to heal Joni spiritually. And the transformation Joni witnessed in herself from that moment was greater than any healing of her paraplegia. She now thanks God for denying her wants, and praises Him for His sovereignty.
Watch ‘A Deeper Healing’ by Joni Eareckson Tada below:
We too need to be like Joni in moments of denial for our wants. Regardless of whether He answers yes or no, God still deserves praise, He is still good and He still loves us.
But sometimes God’s answer to our prayers isn’t a yes, or a no. He simply answers us with a “not right now”. Frequently hearing God give us this response can be harder than a denial. But when God? How long do I have to wait to become a mother? When will you give us a house? When will my marriage get better? The not knowing can feel endless, particular when your petitions are long withstanding.
However, when God answers you with a “not right now” it doesn’t come with a timeline. He doesn’t often give you an end date to your waiting. But perhaps the purpose of the waiting is draw you into Him, to encourage your faith and grow your trust in His plan.
Whatever the answer God gives to your prayer, He is always worthy of praise!
Daily prayer is a time to recharge and gear up for the day to come. Quiet time fills our cups, from which we can draw from throughout our day. If we have an empty cup, or disconnection from God it’s easy to become spiteful, irritable and discontent. That quickly translates to our children or spouse and they in turn become grouchy, turning a happy home into a quarrelsome home. Daily prayer is essential for a Godly life and models behavior for our children. What can we pray for? Anything that’s on your heart should be lifted in prayer to God. Anything that may be causing stress, anxiety, concern, worry, fear, “cast all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
Here are 5 simple ways to make time for prayer each morning:
- Keep a prayer journal
- Set an early alarm
- Listen to a podcast
- Do a morning devotion
- Bible journaling
Prayer doesn’t have to be elaborate. There are no magical words to say. It is simply an honest and humble conversation directly between you and God, praising Him for his sovereignty, and casting your cares upon Him while petitioning for wants and needs of yourself and others.
I hope this post was encouraging and insightful for you! I’d love to hear your feedback, don’t hesitate to leave a comment 🙂 Don’t forget to grab your FREE 31 Day Prayer Challenge below!