How Do I Pray?

James Hassell   -  

Over the summer months, we will be discussing some highly practical matters for the Christian! These posts will deal specifically with how to engage in certain spiritual disciplines. The goal is to equip you with biblical guidance for practicing healthy Christ-like habits.

A “spiritual discipline” is not as lofty as it may sound. Spiritual disciplines are Christ-centered practices that, once engrained in the daily life, build a joyful and transformative character. In fact, it is possible to practice spiritual disciplines to the point at which they become second nature to us. We may not even know that we are doing them! Spiritual disciplines are part and parcel of walking as Jesus walked (1 John 2:6).

Let’s start with one of the most important spiritual disciplines: prayer. Prayer is simply elemental to the Christian life. It’s as basic as air, food, and water to our well-being. Pray is even so basic and important for us that this blog post will not be comprehensive. The Bible’s teachings on prayer simply can never be exhausted. Nonetheless, let’s discuss a few basic but very important details.

Let’s start with a definition of prayer. In the New Testament language (Greek), prayer is commonly called “proskuneo.” This term means “to seek the face” and “to kiss the hand” in the most literal sense. To seek the face of another is a way of saying that you want to get to know someone in a way that goes beyond mere formalities. “To kiss the hand” is a way of communicating reverence in the presence of a superior. The term also can mean “to bow down,” “to worship,” and even “to lie prostrate on the ground.” As you can tell, prayer is important and a major way of worshipping God!

In light of the biblical language for prayer, one of the best definitions I can find comes from the late, great theologian W.T. Conner. He said, “Prayer is man as a person dealing directly with God as a Person.” Pray is therefore worshipful communication between us and God. We bring ourselves and our cares into fellowship with a holy God. The creature gets to commune with the Creator.

How then do we pray? If you are new to prayer, or if has been some time since you prayed, then here are a few biblically based pointers.

  1. Speak to God as though you are speaking to a dear friend. There is no need to bring religious or legalistic formalities into prayer. Jesus knows your heart and what you want to say even before you say it. Pretense is simply foreign to good prayer.
  2. If you are at a loss for words, do two things. First, use the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:5-15) as a guide. We will talk more about the Lord’s Prayer next week, so stay tuned! Second, remember that it’s ok to embrace silence in prayer. Perhaps God wants to say a few things to you. Prayer is not simply about our speaking and God listening. Prayer is worshipful communication.
  3. The Bible teaches us to pray consistently (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17). This means that we can pray even during the most mundane tasks. Prayer is an excellent practice in a Sunday worship service, but prayer is also effective in your life throughout the rest of the week. Anything that concerns you is a proper matter to take up in prayer.
  4. Do your best to eliminate distractions. Our phones and other tech devices can be helpful in our daily lives and work, but they can also cause great distractions when we are praying. It is typically an excellent practice to pray at a certain time of the day when you are less likely to be bothered. Jesus said that we should go pray in an inner room (Matthew 6:6—a term that could even mean something like “pantry”), meaning that we ought to do whatever it takes to get away for communion with God, even if that means hiding out in a kitchen pantry! Turn off the tv, your phone notifications, and those things that could distract. If you have kids, perhaps it’s best to pray before they get up in the morning or after they go to bed at night.
  5. God is listening to you! Sometimes it may feel like your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling. But rest assured, God hears you. He values you so much that he died for you, so why would he turn a deaf ear to you? There will be times when it seems like you’ve hit a dry spell in prayer. It could be however that God’s silence means that he is as closer as ever to you! Keep asking, seeking, and knocking in prayer. Jesus promised that God will be faithful to open the door to you in his time (Matthew 7:7-8).

Next Monday, let’s talk about the specific guidance from Jesus in the Lord’s Prayer!