Prayer is an opportunity to sit down with the Creator of the universe, not merely some rote chore to be “performed” before each meal. Nowhere else in the world do we get this kind of easy access to power! The first step in developing a healthy prayer life is seeing it as a privileged relationship and not just a task.
Like all relationships, prayer combines speaking and listening. We can speak to God about anything and he hears it all, no matter how outlandish. At the same time, many Christians have found it valuable to allow Scripture to shape the subject of prayer, transforming their inner thoughts and desires. We need to remind ourselves to speak to God in praise of him, in thanksgiving, or in confession as well as in asking him to address our needs.
Most people find that learning to listen to God takes more time to develop than learning to speak to him. Jesus says his followers know his voice, just as a sheep knows the voice of its shepherd. (It is said that a large gathering of sheep can be separated into flocks merely by having the shepherd of each flock call his sheep to himself. They know the voice of their shepherd). As we grow in Christ, we learn to distinguish the voice of God from the chatter around us. Scripture, biblical community, life experience and inner promptings all help us to discern God’s voice more and more over time.
Different kinds of prayer are appropriate to different settings. Just like spouses need dedicated time to sit and talk with each other, scheduling dedicated time to pray with God is critical to spiritual vitality. Some of the resources below can help you structure that time. Secondly, God also hears our prayers in the heat of the moment when a particular need arises (some call these emergency or arrow prayers). Thirdly, there is a of a kind of prayer that takes place while we are doing other things, even while we’re talking to others (I’m doing it right now!). It is an inner dialogue that runs concurrently with our other activities. Brother Lawrence calls this “practicing the presence of God.” Lastly, group prayer is all over the pages of Scripture such that whenever we are with a group of believers of any size, we ought to consider the possibility of praying together.
Our posture during prayer is always important. Inwardly, if not outwardly, it is appropriate to bend our knee before the Creator and come in an attitude of poverty and openness. As we pray, we seek to do so with faith in God’s power and goodness. Such faith honors God and opens the way for him to answer. Finally, we ought to make room in our hearts for the Spirit to direct us to those things that we most need to pray for.
On shaping the substance of our prayers: Matthew 6:5-15; Philippians 4:2-7; Ephesians 1:15-23
On praying with faith: Matthew 24:16
God invites us to prayer: Matthew 7:7, 11, 18:19, 21:22; John 14:13, 15:7, 16
The Power of Prayer in a Believer’s Life, compiled by Robert Hall
Too Busy Not to Pray, Bill Hybels
The Practice of the Presence of God, by Brother Lawrence
Fresh Faith, by Jim Cymbala
- Tell your Home Group you are going to spend the following week starting each day with prayer. Report back the next week and describe how your life was affected by the regular prayer time.
- Read Brother Lawrence’s book and share with your Home Group how practicing the presence of God is affecting your spiritual life.
- To increase faith in prayer, keep a journal of asked/answered prayers over the period of a month. At the end, review it with your Home Group.