How Do I Pray?

The following is a devotional that I wrote as a sample piece for my church writing team. As I was writing this I felt that I should share it with my followers on here as well. Keep in mind as you read that the intended audience is new Christians and believers, however, I feel that a lot of the principles apply to seasoned Christians as well. Fundamentals are so easily forgotten sometimes and we can all use a reminder about things that we’ve complicated on our own. Let me know what you think!

When I was growing up I learned the art of repetition. I grew up in a home where we blessed our food at every meal and most evenings recited bed time prayers. From a young age I learned when to say “Amen” and practiced the technique of dramatic pause for emphasis. Being the oldest of three children I was often called upon to recite a memorized line of gratitude. But somewhere along the line the regurgitated prayer lost its luster. What should have been a heart felt prayer and offering of thanksgiving had become a chore. I found myself saying all of the “right” words, but my heart was not in it. On the outside I was a prodigy making those around me proud of my recall of numerous prayers, but on the inside the last thing I was focused on was God. I was thinking more about the food I was about to devour and less about the One who gives us all things. I had lost the genuine aspect to my prayer and faith.

One day my wise father finally realized that I was rushing through the lines and my heart just wasn’t in it. That was the end of the story for me and recited prayers. He took me aside and told me that a prayer that is not genuine is of no worth to God. Although I learned some great habits from these prayers like how to pray regularly I had come to a point in my life where I recognized that prayer isn’t just about thanking God for food; prayer is a lifestyle.

A lot of us misinterpret the purpose of prayer as I did. It’s not an obligation; it is a privilege. We have a continual line of communication with God. We don’t enter that connection via specific words, but rather through faith. Don’t worry about what to say because if you have accepted Jesus into your heart the Holy Spirit lives within you and will communicate the longings of your heart to God. (Romans 8:26-27)

God isn’t sitting there with a checklist waiting for you to say all the right things. He’s just waiting for you to recognize that he’s always there and able to do whatever we ask in His Name. So how should we be praying?

1. We should pray what’s on our hearts, but even more than that we should pray for God’s will. Yes, it would be awesome to get that raise at work or to see your grandmother miraculously healed, but as a believer our focus should also be that if it is God’s will that he allow these things to happen. There are a lot of thing s in life that in the moment seem favorable to us, but God sees the whole picture and has a plan that is far greater than what we can imagine. So do not get discouraged if you pray and God doesn’t answer your prayers in the way you are expecting. It is alright to pray for things we want, but our first prayer should be that God have His will in our lives.

2. Prayers should be continual. “Amen” is a word so many of us get hung up on. We use it to mean “the end” as a conclusion to many of our prayers, but if we were to pray as obedient followers our entire lives would be a constant prayer and the need for a conclusion would be obsolete. A prayer can be a simple word of thanksgiving after narrowly missing a car swerving in traffic or a quick plea for help before a big test. Prayers don’t need to reflect the dinner table format. The Spirit within you will speak on your behalf to God. A prayer can be a thought, a word, or a whisper.

As you begin your journey with Christ don’t let your fears of saying the right thing keep you from communicating with God. He sees your heart and knows your desires and He wants for you to be authentic with Him no matter what that looks or sounds like. King David gives us many beautiful examples of prayers in the book of Psalms. I particularly love the verse Psalm 86:7, “When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me.” Keep your life focused on God continually and have faith that His plan for your life is better than anything you can do for yourself.

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