How should I pray?

Prayer is always a difficult topic.  Mainly because although we know in general there are things one should and shouldn’t pray for, it is a very personal thing.

However because its personal, it also means that we may not have a clue where to begin when faced with the task of praying, especially if we are just beginning to get to know God.  It’s also difficult to use other people as an example of prayer, because those prayers spoken out loud tend to be public prayers, designed for a group of people to hear or for a congregation at church.

So without getting into specifics, the best thing to do is to look at the Bible and seek some advice on how to pray.

A good place to start is the Lord’s Prayer, which is the prayer that Jesus uses to teach his disciples how they should pray:

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. – Matthew 6:9-13

So what can we learn from this?  A good format for a prayer is firstly to praise God, and then to pray that the kingdom will come soon.  Then we can ask him for what we want, followed by asking for forgiveness for our sins.  Finally we can ask that we are not lead into situations where we will continue to sin.

That seems to be a good plan.  The tricky bit is the bit where we ask God for what we want.  Can we ask God for anything?  Paul tells us the following:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. – Philippians 4:6

He is saying that we should ask God to help us with the things we are worrying about.  Perhaps we worry about money, job security, relations who are ill or going through hard times, our own health, or just our everyday life in general.  Paul is saying here that we should put our lives in God’s hands and ask him to help us get through every day by His strength.

Jesus also says:

Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. – Matthew 6:8

This indicates that we should be asking God for what we NEED and not what we WANT.  Sometimes the distinction is hard to make, so we must ensure that before we ask God for anything we should carefully consider it and make sure we are asking God for the right thing.

Finally, we must remember that the answer to prayer is not always straightforward.  Sometimes God says “yes”, sometimes he says “no”, and sometimes he says “yes but later”.  We must remember that whatever the answer is, it will be in accordance with what God wants.  James the apostle tells us to remember:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” – yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”  – James 4:13-15

So let us therefore ask God to direct our lives to do His will, and to make us better people in His service, before the coming of His kingdom which I pray will be very soon.  Amen.

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