By Jenny Culpepper
Prayer can be intimidating. Before asking how we should pray, we can ask a different question: How do I build a relationship with someone? To encourage any relationship, we must spend time with that person. We talk, listen, and get together. Prayer is a tool we use to speak with God and build our relationship with him. Don’t allow the term to intimidate you.
When we pray, we fellowship with the holy God who created us, loves us unconditionally, knows us better than we know ourselves, and works all things for good in our lives (Romans 8:28). He is our Father who loves to give us good gifts (Matthew 7:11). He is our Redeemer, Savior, and Deliverer (Psalm 18:1–2; Romans 3:21; 1 John 4:14). Why wouldn’t we want to talk with him? He longs to hear our hearts. God created us to worship him and to be in relationship with him. He is the Good Shepherd who leads, teaches, restores, and cares for us (Psalm 23; John 10:11).
Jesus commanded us to pray (Matthew 6:9; Luke 11:1). He knows that we need to connect to him, the vine that sustains and equips us (John 15:5). Prayer allows us to be continually filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). Prayer is a daily habit and a moment-by-moment lifeline. Time spent with God is an eternal investment.
We can talk with God about anything in prayer. There are no perfect words; we can simply pour out our hearts to our Creator. We may do that alone (personal prayer) or with others (small group or corporate prayer). We can pray aloud, silently, while journaling, while sitting, or while walking. We can use scripted prayers found in collections like the Book of Common Prayer. We can read the prayers found in the Bible or just tell God what is on our hearts. We can have a conversation with him as we would with a friend.
Journaling can help you foster a habit of prayer. Write out your prayers and your thoughts and wait upon the Lord. Praying and waiting take practice, but we hope in God’s faithfulness (Psalm 130:5). Throughout the months and years, we can go back and reread our journals. The written record of God’s love and faithfulness in our lives—even in the hardest of times—will motivate our thankful prayers.
A model for prayer can also provide some structure. Two popular patterns are ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication) and SOAP (Scripture, Observations, Application, and Prayer). You can apply other forms of prayer, such as the Lectio Divina, contemplative prayer, or praying the Scriptures.
When we pray, we offer God praise, confess our sins, and receive forgiveness (1 John 1:9). We ask for his wisdom (James 1:5), and we renew our minds (Romans 8:1). We find peace and strength in our troubles (John 14:27; 16:33). Don’t let a wandering mind deter you. Simply keep praying.
Prayer offers us an opportunity to experience God’s love and presence, day by day and moment by moment. So let us “continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2). When we miss an opportunity to pray, we miss the chance to be with the one who knows our greatest needs and whose love is unchanging and eternal. There are no wrong prayers, only missed opportunities to drink from the fountain of grace.
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