The aim of this article is very simple:
- To help people start praying
- To encourage each other to continue praying
- To address problems we may have with prayer
Are you praying on a regular basis?
Sometimes we find ourselves in a situation where we haven’t prayed properly for weeks, months, or years. Among other things, this article is designed to help us out of that situation.
If you haven’t prayed, why not?
There are a number of potential reasons:
1. I’m too busy to pray, my school assignments/university/occupation/work in the truth/going out doesn’t allow enough time to pray.
Often the only prayer we are involved in is at the meeting or when we give thanks for our food.
If this is the case, we need to realise:
- The importance of prayer! Our place in the kingdom is determined by our relationship with God and prayer is one of the most important ways to develop and maintain that relationship.
- We need better planning of our day, it could be as simple as writing a list of what we want to achieve each day and including prayer at the top of the list.
2. I don’t need to pray.
This is a self-confident attitude, “I can get through life without God. I can get along in my life without prayer”. It could be that great difficulties or circumstances may come to us in order to make us realise we really do need God’s help
3. I’m too bitter, I’m receiving a hard time from others, I’ve been picked on, and it’s so unjust and unfair.
Are we so filled with self pity and resentment that we stop praying?
- In times like this we really need to tell God exactly what we are going through, and how we are feeling.
- Prayer will help us forgive others
- We need to look with sympathy at other people’s problems – undoubtedly there will be a person in a far worse situation than you. Pray for them, asking that God will help them, and reveal ways that you can help them also. There is a great example of this at the end of Paul’s life. Paul was an old man in a cold dark dungeon and yet he was writing very positively. He was worried not about himself, but about Timothy, John Mark and others in the ecclesia.
4. I’m too embarrassed or ashamed about my life to pray.
We may find ourselves in a place where this condition has been continuing for far too long, where we still feel guilty and unworthy, and we hide from God.
It is very similar to Adam and Eve; they were ashamed with what they had done and so they hid. We might say this is ridiculous. They knew they had sinned. More than that, God knew! Yet they tried to hide it from Him. The funny thing is, we do the same thing. God’s response was to find them and sort out the problem straight away. God wants to do the same with us.
I hope you are convinced and you’re ready to start on the path of prayer. But I hear you say “but what do I do?”
Again I hear you say ‘how bad you feel’ – then tell God, “Dear God, I haven’t been praying because of…” That’s the start, keep it going, and soon it will all come out.
Fantastic! you’ve started on the pathway of prayer.
And now for the second part:
We have two suggestions:
The first is to use the Lord’s Prayer as a basis.
The Lord’s Prayer is a guide for our own prayer. You will notice;
- How simple and clear it is
- It’s brief, not long
- Specific and to the point
- Deeply respectful
- Christ didn’t use words we don’t understand. So let’s not use clichés that we don’t understand. If they don’t mean anything to us, then they won’t mean anything to God.
- Don’t say things you truly don’t mean. An example is someone coming to me and saying that I’ve lost weight. They obviously don’t mean it – you don’t feel close to that sort of person.
- It’s intelligent and well thought out
Let’s go through the Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6v9-13), phrase by phrase and use it as a prompt for our own prayers.
- v9: “Our Father” this is not a figure of speech. He is a loving, personal God to those who want to serve him. He is a father in the truest sense. He wants to do His best for us, His children. It emphasises the closeness we have that we are to be the children of God, and the incredible love that God has for us, and that we are to have for Him.
- Next phrase “in heaven” is emphasising that although we have a close, warm, personal relationship, God is in Heaven. We acknowledge His greatness as a King and are very careful not to be over familiar.
– Have a look in Ecc 5v2. He is in Heaven and is the supreme King over all the universe and you are on Earth, weak and mortal.
- “Hallowed be thy name” Hallowed means reverence or deep respect for God. We respect His name, which speaks of what God is: His nature, His personality, His character, and the purpose He has for us and how He wants us to be a part of His plan (EDIT: What is part of Truth?). We hold God’s name in a position that is unique and we have a special place for God in our lives that is above and more important than anything else
- v10: “Thy Kingdom come” we desire to have the Kingdom now. Sometimes we don’t want the Kingdom. We may want to complete our education, or get married before the Kingdom. However our desire must be that we want the Kingdom to come straight away. We’re sick of this world with all its evil and lust. We can’t wait for Christ to come back to this world and totally change it Continually praying for the kingdom can help change our attitude. A Jewish writer once said, “A prayer in which the Kingdom is never mentioned is not a true prayer at all.” The Kingdom is God’s ultimate aim and it should be ours also.
- “Thy will be done in Earth as it is in heaven” It obviously refers to the future when men will no longer disregard the things of God but desire to do His will. But to be able to truly pray for this we must desire to do God’s will right now. It’s one of the hardest things we can ask – that God might take us, self-centered men, to become God-centered. This is achieved through prayer.
– We’re asking that we might do God’s will as it is done in Heaven. The angels do God’s will in heaven; they do it cheerfully, constantly and perfectly. Their will is wholly and entirely God’s. There’s no inner conflict or desire to go their own way. We’re asking God to take us, again self-centered people and change us that we might live our life now as if we were an immortal.
- v11: “Give us this day our daily bread” This means – Give us (say this part for ‘me’, but also others i.e. other people) enough food for today and tomorrow. Can we pray this when we know there is plenty of food in the cupboard? We pray, give us our daily bread, to emphasise that we don’t take these things for granted and how grateful we are to Him. We still realise that we totally depend on God and the situation can change very, very quickly. See our lives in perspective as Prov 30v8 puts it, “give me neither poverty nor riches but food convenient for me.” This helps us to get the right perspective in life, that we are not poor but also that we don’t desire the riches of this world and don’t get caught up with this mad rush for possessions like other people in the world.
- v12: “Forgive us our sins” we acknowledge that we cannot come before God without this. Without forgiveness we can’t have fellowship, we can’t have that relationship with God that we desire so much.
– We can be very, very specific here. We can confess our particular sins to God, whatever it might be. And we need to plead with God that He might forgive us. We’re throwing ourselves on God’s mercy. Pride, self-sufficiency, and self-assertiveness are broken down and we realise that without this we cannot be close to our God. We are acknowledging the effect our sins have on God as our Father and how it has hurt Him.
– Yet we acknowledge in our prayer that there is a condition to our own forgiveness and that is – that we forgive others. God cannot forgive us unless we forgive others. This is VERY difficult. Quite often other people do or say things that annoy us or even hurt us, really hurt us. Another record puts it “that we might forgive from our hearts.” It’s got to be full, total and absolute forgiveness. If we don’t do this we can lose everything that we have had as far as our relationship with God and our hope of the Kingdom is concerned.
– When we feel deep and real injury that others have inflicted upon us, we will find that the only way we can forgive is because we have a very close relationship with God.
– In our prayer we must really feel that God can forgive us. Sometimes we feel that we are so bad that God can’t forgive us. We’ve got to realise that God has the power to forgive us and to change us as long as we repent. Repentance is when we look at the past with sorrow and are determined to change in the future.
- v13: “lead us not into temptation” we are now coming to the climax of our prayer. We admit we are not strong enough to handle trials on our own. The Pharisee would never pray, “Lead us not into temptation” he would pray, “lead us into temptation so I can show my righteousness to others.”
We pray “lead us not into temptation” because we are worried about offending
God and therefore, we ask that we might be able to come through any of the problems of life.
- “Deliver us from evil” this is in the sense of snatching us away from evil so that we don’t get caught up in it. If we pray, then we obviously will not deliberately go into circumstances, or be with people that will tempt us. We won’t lead ourselves into temptation by lingering in dangerous places that might have an affect on us. We will be careful with what we read and what we watch.
- “Thine is the Kingdom” Pray, you are my King, it is your right to command and we must obey.
- “The power” You have the power to change us, no matter how bad we are.
- “And the Glory” This is talking about God’s character and nature. We desire to possess his character.
- And finally “Amen” – so be it. The last words are not a cold formality. It is a fitting way to end the prayer; it’s a heartfelt plea that all we have prayed for might be accomplished.
The second suggestion in continuing on the path of prayer is to use the following prayer sheets and focus on the different parts of prayer:
AIM: Tell God how much you value, honour, esteem, and love Him.
Set aside a period of time to specifically praise God at the beginning of the prayer. By doing this you are putting God in the right position at the start.
The larger God is in our prayers the smaller we become, remembering He is in heaven and we are on Earth.
THINGS TO INCLUDE IN YOUR PRAYER
- Praise God for His character – list 5 things you love about His character.
- Praise God for His word – list 3 of the most powerful points you have heard from the Bible recently from exhortation and/or exposition.
- Praise God for His creation – list 3 things you have seen recently from creation and how they impressed you.
- Praise God for He is a Father – what should an ideal father be like; in what way is God your father?
- Praise God for his name – concentrate on one of God’s titles; what does it mean and how does it affect you?
- List any personal difficulties you are having with God – ask him to help you resolve them eg. God is not fair, I don’t feel like praying
- List 7 things you are grateful for.
AIM: To clearly identify our faults and to believe we are forgiven for them.
- Admit your guilt to God
- Take seriously your mistakes and failures
- God wants us to be fully aware of our sins
- If we admit our sin displeases and hurts God, we acknowledge our responsibility to change it
- Confession is difficult but it is a powerful part of prayer
- Be specific
THINGS TO INCLUDE IN YOUR PRAYER
- What is your biggest problem?
- Why is it such a problem?
- How long have you had this problem? When did it start and why?
- Do you want to overcome the problem?
- What do you do to encourage the problem?
- What arguments does sin use to get us to indulge?
- Tell God the concise clear arguments from His word to overcome the problem. (You will need to put some time in to search out the scriptural view of your problem and then come up with the most concise and clear arguments)
- Ask God to help you overcome the problem
- Tell God you are determined to stop sinning in this area
- Replace it with something positive
- Realise that your problem can be overcome
- Commit to more prayer and meditation to strengthen your conscience so that you can overcome the problem.
- Ask God for forgiveness
- To forgive us as we forgive others
A biblical character to illustrate – David
AIM: To focus on others and minimise the focus on ourselves
- Pray for 3 people that are sick
- Pray for 3 people who are in trouble spiritually – what can you do to help them? What do you want God to do for them?
- List 3 of your best friends – pray that their faith in God might increase; pray that their love for God might increase; pray that they might continue to improve in the Truth, even if difficulties might come upon them. Thank God for them and ask that they might be in the Kingdom.
- List 3 people who are doing a good work in a) your local area b) overseas
- Thank God for them
- Ask God to continue to be with them
- Ask God how you can help them
- Ask that their work might become more successful
- Think of 3 people you don’t get on with
- Pray for them
- Ask God to continue to be with them
- Ask how you can help them, or what you can do to fix any problems between you
- Ask God to help you fully forgive them
- Ask God for help to see their good points and thank God for these
- Pray for your youth group
- List 3 things you can do to help
- Pray for 3 older people
- List 3 things you can do to help
- Pray for 3 lonely people
- What can you do for them?
A bible character to illustrate this – Paul
AIM: That you may not be tempted beyond what you can handle, that situations that are beyond what you can handle may not come upon you.
- Is there something troubling you?
- What is troubling you?
- Why is it troubling you?
- Is there a way to make it trouble you less?
- Ask God to help
- Your family:
- What would you like to improve in your family?
- How can you help your family-life improve?
- Husband and Wife:
- That your relationship might continue to improve
- What can you do to get closer to each other and to God?
- List 3 things you could do to improve your spiritual life
- What are they?
- Ask God to help you see these things more consistently.
- Pray that you might get closer to God.
- How will you achieve this?
- What will you do?
- Ask God to help you get closer
- Pray that your life may be relatively happy, successful and filled with Godly friends. Pray for contentment
AIM: to refresh our desire for the Kingdom to come
- Give 3 reasons why you want to be in the Kingdom.
- Give 3 reasons why God wants His Kingdom to come
- Give 3 reasons why the world needs the Kingdom to come
- List 3 things you really want to do in the Kingdom
- What character faults do you want to lose in the Kingdom?
- What feelings that you have now do you want to lose in the Kingdom? (Eg. Feelings of inadequacy, embarrassment, not good enough etc.)
- Picture yourself:
- Accepted at the judgement seat
- At the first worship service
- Actually meeting Christ and sharing a meal with him
- Ask God that you might be in the Kingdom
- What does it mean for God’s will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven?
As you continue on the path of prayer you will have PROBLEMS.
Problem 1: CONCENTRATING
- We have heard many talks on improving our concentration in public prayers, but even in our own prayers our mind wanders. Sometimes when we are praying a dreadful thought comes alongside our own prayer. We try our best to keep that thought out of our mind but then the thought pokes its face into our prayer and takes our whole concentration. The thought is wrong, it is dreadful, it is evil, and because of this we often feel embarrassed that we’ve let it take over, and we stop praying. In this situation we must start again, apologising to our God.
- To help concentration we need to put effort in, it is essential. We first prepare our mind, clearing it of other things, working out what we want to say. We try to say what we mean and mean what we say and to not repeat things, all of this requires effort.
- In Heb. 5 our Lord offered up prayers and supplication with strong crying and tears and was heard, in that He feared – there was nothing casual or emotionless in His prayers. He was conscious of His need and God’s power to help. As our Lord put great effort into his prayers, so must we.
- Visualisation helps us to concentrate. Before you start your prayer, visualise God in heaven. As you pray about the Kingdom, visualise it, picture the brothers and sisters you are praying for.
Problem 2: PRAYER ISN’T EFFECTIVE, IT DOESN’T DO ANYTHING FOR ME
A) Don’t give in! The main thing is to keep at it, Rom 12v12, “continue, instant in prayer” (NEB) “persist in prayer.” Stick at prayer even when it doesn’t seem to be achieving much. When this happens the worst thing you can do is to give in.
- This reluctance happens in many areas of life. If you don’t want to preach, the best thing to do is to preach. If you don’t want to pray, the best thing to do is pray.
- There is even benefit in going through the routine, even if you don’t get much out of it, to bring back the right spirit. It seems simple but it works. If you are embarrassed about what you are doing then tell that to God in prayer.
- It’s amazing what the mind will do when you tell it what it HAS to do. Tell yourself you must pray and as you continue, the right spirit will follow on after.
- As one brother said, ‘pray until you pray.’
B) Look at how often you are praying, the Bible seems to suggest three times a day (Psa 55v17; Dan 6v10)
- To make prayer more effective, have three different prayers for three different times of the day:
The morning is a fresh start. It is quiet and still. Your focus is both to thank and request:
- for life to live another day
- that God may be with you to care for you and help you get through the day
- that you genuinely set out with the aim to please God today
- to help you learn more about God and be more like Him
We are busy, our energy is low and we are distracted and can forget what we are here for. Your focus is HELP:
- to continue
- to handle temptation
- to be God centred in the midst of evil
- to be elevated out of the activity by focusing our appreciation on God
Literally at dusk – there is a calmness when your work is finished. Your focus is to reflect on how the day went:
- confessing your sins and discussing them with God
- focusing on others
You must work out the best time and circumstances for these three prayers. Your morning prayer may be said at breakfast time (if it is quiet) or you may have to stop on the way to work/school/university.
Your midday prayer will probably be included in your prayer for lunch. With your night time prayer, perhaps stop before you get home and pray.
The best time for any prayer is when you have the time to devote yourself properly to it and the ability to concentrate on what you are doing.
Problem 3: BEING CONSISTENT
Good habits are very important. The habits of brushing our teeth, combing our hair, and using deodorant are very important, especially to anyone within a 2 meter radius of us.
- The Lord found the habit of prayer vital. It was His habit when He was in Jerusalem, to come to the Garden of Gethsemane to draw strength from His Father. He was able to use prayer to come through the greatest crisis of His life because He was able to draw on the strength of what had occurred in the past. He could pray all night because that was His habit.
- Let’s not get into the habit of only using prayer when we are in dire straights or in an emergency, the crisis passes and we stop praying. There is no benefit, no improvement in our prayer, we are no closer to God and we often don’t even thank God.
- If we are in the habit of prayer and an emergency occurs our prayer will be more powerful, effective, with the end result being that our relationship with God is enriched.
- Get into the good habit of praying with words that you normally use. As mentioned before, the Lord’s Prayer is a ‘model’ prayer, a basis for our prayers.
- It is simple
- It is brief
- It is deeply respectful
- Uses words that are clearly understood
- Likewise in our prayers we should have simple direct language. God knows our thoughts and we should express them in a natural way. Our community has a certain vocabulary of favourite phrases and common clichés that can wash over us and the impact is not as powerful as it could be. It can happen in formal prayer. Try to not get into that habit with personal prayer.
- Develop a pattern in prayer.
In Psa 5v3 David directs his prayer to God – ‘Directs’ means to set in a row, arrange in order. This word is used of the priest laying the wood for the sacrifice every morning.
- When people do things for a long time they get good at it and you sometimes like to watch. The priest gets the wood, there is a flurry of activity, and suddenly it’s done. It’s a lot easier now then when he first started. He was a lot slower then, but now he’s quicker because he has a developed a pattern.
- It is the same with prayer, for our main prayer of the day it is better to have a clear pattern based on the Lord’s Prayer.
For the first part of the prayer, the emphasis is on God. It is the most important part of the prayer and probably the hardest. Without God there is no point in praying. We see the right perspective when we fill our prayers with God. Doing this we shrink in our own estimation and we see we aren’t the center of the prayer. The prayer, as does the whole world, revolves around our God.
We go on to talk about the Kingdom, and our brethren and sisters. Be specific about the things they need help in and what you are asking God to do. We need to be like Paul and always pray for others. Some ecclesias were mentioned by him every time he prayed. Sometimes he prayed for those he’d never met. Prayer helps us develop a passion for people. Like Paul, don’t just pray for them in difficulties, but also thank God that they are making progress in the Truth. Ask God that they may make even more. Paul didn’t just pray when things weren’t going well; he also prayed when things were going well that they might improve further.
Lastly pray for ourselves, because the pattern of our prayer is right if our perspective is right. We’re concerned for God, then our brothers and sisters, and finally ourselves. At first, that may not be the case but getting into this habit and reinforcing it over and over by prayer helps us to have that general direction in life.