How to Pray

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place.
When he finished, one of his disciples said to him,
‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’…
[Jesus replied] ‘So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.’”
Luke 11:1, 9-10 (NIV)

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Prayer is at once the easiest and most difficult spiritual exercise to do. Here is an example of an easy prayer. I recall a near fatal car accident in the Smoky Mountains. We were driving around a bend in the highway far up a mountain when we hit a patch of ice. The car skidded out of control and toward the edge of the mountain that did not have a guard rail to stop us from plunging hundreds of feet to our deaths. All I could utter was a three word prayer, “God help us!” Mercifully the Lord helped us, and we stayed on the road.

The trusting prayer of a child is wonderful to hear, and we can learn much from them about prayer. There is a story of a drought in a farming community that threatened to leave no food to harvest for people or their cattle. The minister of the community called for prayer meeting to cry to God for rain. Only a young girl brought an umbrella. She alone, it seemed, had faith for an immediate answer from the One who controlled the weather.

Prayer can also be difficult. Many have prayed for healing and lived to suffer another day. We often do not know what to pray for as Paul admitted. (Romans 8:26)

Studying the great prayers of the Bible (Ezra 9, Nehemiah 9, Daniel 9 et. al.) can be very beneficial regarding form and content in prayer. Also examining prayers composed by believers and recorded in books such as the Anglican Book of Common Prayer are excellent examples of godly prayer.

Praying written prayers is in the same category as singing written hymns. Both are composed by godly poets who know how to prepare acceptable worship and petitions to our Father in heaven. You need to be comfortable praying the prayers of the saints or stay with prayers you spontaneously create.

There is merit in thoughtful meditation on Scripture including the many promises recorded for our encouragement to pray in faith. As Matthew Henry said so long ago, “We should sue God for the performance of His promises.”

Are you taking advantage of prayer to praise, worship, petition, and offer thanksgiving to the Lord? This spiritual activity is available to us all and we do well to take the opportunity prayer affords us to grow more and more into the image of Christ.

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