Prayer is a conversation with God. How you pray and what you say to God depends on your relationship with him.
If you have been saved by Christ, then you are considered a son or daughter of God. How does a child talk to their Father? How would you talk to your own human father? You would probably say something like, “Hey daddy! How are you?” A father may respond with information about how he’s doing and the child may also share new things about themselves. Children will include their father in everything they do too because they love their dad so much. In prayer, we can treat our Father the same way. Talk to him about anything going on in your life from big things to small problems…Just tell him!
And you should also talk to God about what he is doing too. How would a child respond if they saw their father working on something? They may say, “Hey dad, what are you building?” God is always up to something and we should involve him in our lives by asking questions about what he’s doing and telling him all the things we’re thinking of. Sometimes we might feel like we’re not important enough for God to care about us or that we don’t deserve his attention and time but that isn’t true at all! No matter who you are, where you go, or how much good-deed you’ve done; God is ALWAYS with you…He loves YOU! And through Christ Jesus, ALL people get to be considered God’s kids. How awesome is that?
Prayer can be written down or said out loud. We should initiate prayer because it isn’t forced on us by God. How do you approach your own earthly father if you need something from him? You just say, “Hey dad?” When we pray, we can come to God with requests and praise him for who he is! After all of the verses about prayer in the Bible, there are only two things that Jesus tells us to remember when praying: 1) To pray to our Father 2) Repeat what God has already given us (What Jesus has done)!
There are some basic ground rules for effective prayer…
1. Pray with a sincere heart – Prayer isn’t just saying words. How you feel is also very important! God knows what’s in your heart so don’t try to hide it or put on phony praise just because you think that’s what he wants to hear. How would you talk to your dad if you hated him?
2. Pray with humility – Just like any relationship, be courteous and respectful when talking to God. How would a child talk to their father if they didn’t like him? How would they approach him for help if he had disappointed them before? You wouldn’t go up to him and demand what you wanted; instead, you’d probably act more silently…Maybe not even approaching him at all because of past hurts between the two of you…We do the same thing with God. How much pain has he caused by others or things that have happened to us that we don’t even realize…We forget how much HE’s suffered and we feel like we could never forgive him…But none of those feelings can stop our prayers because no matter what happens, God IS ALWAYS WITH US!
3. Pray for specific people – This one is really important! How would you thank your dad if he bought or made your lunch for you? How would you talk to him if he rescued you from danger? Tell him “thank-you!” Talk about someone in detail as well as yourself; name them and tell God all about their condition; what they’ve been through, why it affected them, etc. How would your dad respond if you only talked about yourself in every conversation? How would he feel? Don’t neglect people around you! Take into account that they too are God’s children and talk to him about their hardships.
4. Read the Bible everyday – How do you learn how to pray to God? By reading his word; the Bible! It has everything we need to know about who he is, what he does, what kind of relationship we can have with him, etc. The bible is like a manual on prayer for us…It wasn’t meant to be looked at one time and never touched again but personally read, understood, absorbed, applied in our lives. Every person needs to learn how to do this because the information that’s held in it is invaluable.
5. Commit to pray everyday – How do you start your day? I know for me, I wake up and turn on my phone (which plays my morning worship music) and then read my bible; praying as I do so! How many times does God say that he’ll meet us first thing in the morning if we’ll come talk to him right away…Why not take advantage of this opportunity?! Prayer might make all the difference in how our days go! To keep up with prayer, keep a journal of what has happened during each time you spend talking to God. How would this help our relationship with him grow stronger? How would it increase his love for us more than anything else? How would it change us? How can you pray for others if you don’t know they exist or what they’re going through?! You might be able to picture them in your mind but that’s not enough! We need to take action on who we say we love! Of course, prayer is effective because of Jesus’ finished work but our own words and actions will help God accomplish more than any argument ever could…Just like how you’d talk to your dad.
Prayer isn’t just talking about the struggles of life; there are different types of prayer that come from different places. How do I know this? Because Jesus tells us so! Do some research on the following scriptures: Luke 11:1-13, Matthew 6:5-8, Luke 18:1–8. How do we pray to God? How would those around you talk to their heavenly father if they had one? How would you know what’s best for them or how can you ask for things that they couldn’t get on their own if your mind wasn’t free of worry and selfish thoughts…It’s impossible! How can we expect God to hear us when we’re talking over each other?! We need clarity in order to be heard and understood by someone, let alone our creator and savior. How would he hear us if we were yelling at him about wanting a car but then start asking for food after the fact because we didn’t realize until later that it was more important? How does this affect our motivation for prayer? How loud do we need to be in order to receive what we want from God? How can I pray if I don’t know what or who to say something about…What would you ask your father for if he was the only one listening and you didn’t care if he got upset?! How is this affective?
7. Trust that God will answer – How important is trust when it comes to prayer? How valuable of a trait is trustworthiness?! How often do we think more about ourselves than others and how their needs fit into the picture of life and how it all works together? We’re told in scriptures that “anything” we ask, according to his will, will be given! How does this affect our view on prayer? How would it affect our priorities and motivation for spending time with him? How does this change the way we approach life and the problems we face each day? How often do you pray and then feel like nothing happened or no changes were made in your life…How can God encourage us when we trust so little in him?! How can he do anything to help us if we don’t ask for his help?! How can I expect God to show up on my command when all I wish is that he was here on demand…?
8. Pray on behalf of others – How many times have you prayed for someone else before they asked you to?! How many times have you forgotten about them just a few minutes later because something new caught your attention and more important things came up through the day?! How many times do we ignore people because we’re too busy with our own lives and what feels like a never-ending to-do list that we forget to pray for someone who truly needs it…?
9. Pray in private – How does this affect our relationship with God? How would it change how close we feel to him when you can’t be alone with him…Do you want to know his will?! What might he say if you approached him right now instead of reading this article…? How would our perspective on life change if we knew what was on his mind at all times without needing us to tell him our opinions and thoughts about what’s going on around us every second of the day…How would this change our perspective on living if we knew what he thought about us and cared for us more than anyone else ever could?! How can we expect God to hear us when He’s all around us at all times but we choose to ignore him in favor of focusing on a list of other things that don’t even matter after a certain point?! How does this affect our view on prayer? How often do you find yourself getting distracted from praying by other things going on around you throughout your day, even though you know it’s important to take time out of your schedule for Jesus? How would our priorities change as humans if Jesus was first place instead of somewhere near 7th or 8th…?
10. Pray with others – How would our lives change if we had more accountability when it comes to the things that matter most?! How can God encourage us through others who are just as passionate about making him first place in their life as he is with each of us…? How does this affect our motivation for prayer? How often do you pray by yourself instead of getting other people involved, including family or friends? Why might this be? Do you think others would help to motivate you to pray more often for important things…Why or why not…?
11. Pray without ceasing – How often do your thoughts find themselves distracted from praying even though you want nothing more than to show Jesus how thankful you are, right now without having to wait because there isn’t enough time in the day to fit it all in? How would each of us change if we never had another thought go through our head that wasn’t about God with nothing else to take his place…? How does this affect your view on prayer? How often do you let distractions come between you and God when he’s just a prayer away?! How can you expect him to hear your prayers but ignore everything else going on around you at the same time…How would our priorities change as humans if Jesus was number 1 instead of somewhere near 7th or 8th…
12. Pray for others – How often do we ask God for things with no consideration that someone out there needs something more important than what we feel like asking for right now?! How can God help us to change our perspective when it comes to what’s most important in life…? How many times have you wished that he would force your mind to focus on things that matter more than the things we complain about and let distract us throughout the day…We only get one shot at this and we’ve got to make it last. How can we expect him not to care when we’re too distracted with ourselves and everything else going on around us to even notice anything outside of our own lives.