“Prayer changes things. It changes us.‘” – Jeff Simmons
All too often the new believer is puzzled by prayer. What is it? How does it practically fit in my faith? How do I even do it? it’s such an expressive part of our faith, and because of that, it can often feel awkward, embarrassing, inadequate or superficial. I remember feeling intimidated when asked to pray around other people. I didn’t have the words- the christian vocabulary. Nor did I have the eloquent delivery, that often make some seem more “holy” or christian-like than others. It paralyzed me. And those same feelings paralyze others.
But cloaked in that is a misunderstanding of what prayer really is. Prayer is simply the intimate part of our relationship with God where we get to invite him into our lives. It gives us the opportunity to be humble in our thankfulness and vulnerable in our ask- because it is okay to ask. In those moments we get to connect and be real with God, are the moments we’re offered personal revelations about ourselves, others and God. As Jeff Simmons says, ‘where there is prayer, there is hope’. His invitation into our lives, allows us to stand aside and allows Him to change things. What beautiful news.
The next question is how? How does one pray and develop an authentic, consistent, prayer life? As with anything, it takes practice. It isn’t a skill you have or don’t have. The more you do it, the better you get at it.
Prayer is a conversation with God. Which means, its’ dependent on us talking to him. But also, equally, its’ dependent on us listening to him. If you googled, “how to pray”, you’ll quickly notice an obnoxious amount of information breaking down the a “correct” formula for prayer. As annoying as those lists can often read, I do believe there to be an important framework by which we think about how we go about prayer. Here’s the framework:
1. The Address
The address is an acknowledgement of who we are praying to. Our Abba father. Our provider, keeper and our friend. It sets the tone of an intentional conversation to the one that deserves it. It postures our heart.
2. The Praise
This is the component of my prayer life I’ve seen the most growth in. As the amazing-ness of God’s vastness becomes more evident to you, it becomes easier to offer him praise. “The praise” is a recognition of the things that make God great. It relishes the ominipresence and omnipotence that make him deserving of our prayer. This is the acknowledgement of his authority in our lives.
3. The Thanks
The Christians daily posture of thanksgiving is an important part of the Christian life that should spill into our prayer lives. Unfortunately, all too often, we take for granted the miracles, big and small, that are being orchestrated on our behalf every day. This includes the miracle of waking up every morning to the grace he provides us through the forgiveness of our sins. Thanking God in our prayer life allows us to notice the ways He takes care of us.
4. The Ask
Aka, the supplication. What do you want God to do in your life? Ask him for it! Throughout the bible God states many times his will to meet our needs. But he also takes delight in providing for us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37), as long as it is consistent with the plan he has for our lives.
Many people think that our requests are the entirety of what prayer is. Others feel entirely too ashamed to ask. The mature Christian understands the delight God has in hearing us ask but knows that this comes after we’ve offered our praise and thankfulness.
5. The Address
Our prayer is closed by sealing all we have said under the authority of Jesus Christ- He who acts as our mediator. In the same way we started, it acknowledges the authority to whom we’ve prayed to.
As we head into a new year, my prayer is that we all develop consistent, fervent prayer lives that deepen our relationship with the one that deserves it.