Prayer is a central tenet of the Christian faith, but probably one of the most mysterious and misunderstood parts of Christianity. There are many thoughts on what prayer is and isn’t. Some of these views are correct while others are greatly mistaken.
Regardless of what prayer is and isn’t, Christians and most God-believing individuals know they should pray. But, as for how and when, there is great debate and even more questions. Understanding prayer can strengthen one’s faith and help you grow closer to God. First, it’s important to understand what prayer is, and then it will be important to learn how to pray.
CONNECTING WITH GOD
WHAT IS PRAYER?
Prayer is simply communication with God. It’s a way to connect with and grow closer to our heavenly father. A person prays to share their heart with and hear from God. Praying is a two-way street where a person shares and listens to God.
As an example, imagine how two adults might communicate with one another over dinner. One might share how their day was, what happened that was significant, and take time to listen to the other person. A dinner conversation between two friends bears the basics of healthy prayer.
What Prayer is Not
Praying is not only about receiving from God. It’s not about saying the perfect words in the perfect way to get what you want. In the Bible the ancient Egyptians believed a person could control a god if they knew its name. This might have been one reason Moses, having grown up in this culture, wanted to know God’s name (Ex. 3:13). He responded, “I AM who I AM” (Ex. 3:14). God’s answer established for Moses and the Egyptians that God will not be placed in a box, ordered around, or controlled in any way.
Some may believe they’re supposed to use formal language while praying. Other might have grown up with specific language like the Lord’s prayer. These individuals might believe God only listens to and responds to established prayers, or at least those that use formal language (the more thee’s and thou’s the better).
But, this is not the case. Jesus called God, “Abba”, which is similar to our English equivalent, “daddy”. The apostle Paul explains that this same spirit is now in the believer. He writes, “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again;rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
Imagine seeing a young child run to their father’s arms, but stop short, look up and say, “Dear Father, might thee grant me thy grace and allow me to be hugged by thy strong and loving arms?” This would clearly be ridiculous. Instead, we expect a child to run to their father and freely jump into his loving arms. As believers in Jesus, it’s important to understand that we have been adopted as children of God. This means we have all the rights and privileges of children of the king.
How to Pray
As children of God, there is no right way to pray. In the same way there is no official or right way to have a conversation with another person, there is no correct way to pray. Besides understanding that we are children of God and have the right to enter into his presence freely, it’s also important to understand that prayer is not about us. Instead, praying is about sharing our hearts with God and orienting our lives to Him.
A child of the king may enter freely into the king’s presence, but that child will still be aware that the king holds power over the kingdom, including the life of the child. As children of God we should enter into God’s presence, asking God to re-orient our life, thoughts, and feelings to be more like him.
Even as Jesus prepared for the cross he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39). This represents the ultimate prayer. Jesus honestly acknowledged that he did not want to go to the cross. He asked if God could offer another path. But, ultimately Jesus submitted his life and future into God’s capable hands. And all of this was communicated with two sentences.
Principles of praying are more important to understand than rote words or phrases. The Bible says we should constantly be sharing with our heavenly father; praying without ceasing (1 Thes. 5:16-18). Praying to God should eventually come as natural as our very breath, breathing in the presence of God while breathing out our concerns and burdens.
If you have stayed away from God in prayer out of fear or frustration, you should know that God is not mad at you. As a loving father loves to hear the laughter of his children and comes running when hearing their tears, God longs to hear your voice. He looks on you with great love and wants to hear all about your day, life, heart, concerns, joys- everything! Consider taking a moment right now to say hi to your heavenly father, letting him know what’s going on in your life.