Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to start something, regardless of what it is. In the case of praying, for those who have never prayed before, there is the uncertainty of how to pray correctly. What should you say? How should you say it? When should you pray? Will God be mad at you if you pray incorrectly?
What is prayer?
Prayer is actually very simple. It is ongoing conversation with God. The Bible does not give formulas, rituals, or words to recite. It just tells us to pray. In other words, just talk to God.
The most Important thing to know about prayer
Prayer is just a conversation with God. I already said this, but it is worth repeating. Just talk to God.
In order to have a good conversation with God, you need to be His friend. When God is your friend, you will talk to Him, as you would any friend.
Friendship with God is the most important part about prayer. It is the quality of your friendship with God that determines the quality of your prayers. If you want a good prayer life, you must have a good relationship with God.
It is a mistake to look for advice about the best time to pray and about the best words to say. Just be yourself. God knows all about you. He knows you better than you know yourself. Praying to the Lord might be a new and different experience for you, but for God, it’s just hearing you talk to Him. All He wants from you is your sincere love and friendship.
Discovering how to pray
There are eight important questions that are frequently asked about prayer. If you study the answers to these questions and understand them, you will know how to pray correctly. But knowing how to pray, and doing it are two different things. Remember, the most important thing to keep in mind is that prayer is your relationship with God. If you grasp this idea, you should be able to answer the following questions by yourself.
- When should I pray?
- To whom am I praying?
- Why am I praying?
- What do I say?
- How long should my prayer be?
- Should I keep my eyes closed?
- What should I expect from God as I pray?
- How will God answer me?
When should I pray?
Prayer begins the moment you are saved. That’s right. You do not have to take a class on how to pray. Praying is something every newly saved person does.
Salvation involves hearing the truths of God and believing them. It is at the moment that you change from what you believed to what God says you should believe that you are saved. This change in belief is called repentance. Jesus said in Luke 13:3,
“Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”
When you change what you believe, God will change you. He will forgive you of your sins and give you His gift of eternal life. At this moment, you have a new relationship with God, the Creator of the universe. At the moment of repentance, you become a born-again child of God.
Born-again child of God
You may have heard the term born again, but what does it mean? How is it possible to be born again? You have already been born once. You exist, and you are reading this explanation. The second birth is different from the first birth in two ways.
Born again spiritually
First, when you are born again, you are born spiritually, not physically. John 3:3-6 records an important dialogue between Jesus and a Pharisee named Nicodemus. The dialogue gives us very important information about being born again.
“Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
“Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
To be born again, you must first be born of the flesh. This is the reason you exist. Then you must be born again spiritually. The body of flesh is not born again. Only the spiritual part of you is born again.
In order to be born again, your spirit must have been a part of your first birth. Everyone is born with a body, a soul, and a spirit. We know this from 1 Thessalonians 5:23. It says,
“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
When you are born again, only your spirit is born again. So then, you are born with a body, soul, and spirit. Then you are born again spiritually. Your spirit is literally changed and made brand new. Your body remains the same, as does your soul, when you are saved. Your soul will be redeemed after you die physically. Romans 8:23 says,
“… even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.”
The soul remains the same because that is your identity. Your soul is the essence of who you are as a person.
Born again by choice
The second birth also differs from the first birth because of choice. You had no choice in being born the first time. However, to be born again, the choice is up to you. The choice is to believe God or to reject Him; to believe that His will is the right way or that your way is better.
As I mentioned already, if you choose to repent and change your mind about God, He will save you instantly. Have you ever made the conscious decision to believe in Him and His message?
If you have believed God, you are born into the family of God. You have a relationship with Him that will never end. You have a friendship that will never cease.
And as with any friend, you have a conversation. But with God by your side at all times, your conversation will never end. Once it begins, it will continue forever.
There may be pauses and distractions, but the conversation will never end.
Because God is omnipresent (that means everywhere at all times), He is always with you at all times everywhere you are. You can talk to Him about everything and anything. You can talk to Him when you wake up, throughout your day, and when you go to sleep.
Who am I praying to?
You pray to your heavenly Father. You have been born again, so that makes Him your Father. You are His child. Jesus said in Matthew 6:9,
“After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.”
Your heavenly Father is God Almighty. All things were made by Him. All things are overseen by Him. All things are united in Him. First Corinthians 15:28 explains this unity in the Father, in the trinity Godhead, and in creation.
“And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.”
Jesus is the second person of the Godhead. He is God, but as 1 Corinthians 15:28 explains, Jesus subjects Himself to the Father. This is a role that He assumes. It has nothing to do with His divinity. In Hebrews 1:8, the Father says to Jesus,
“Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.”
Jesus calls the Father God, and the Father calls Jesus God. Isn’t that amazing? And there is also God the Holy Spirit. These three are referred to as the Godhead. Romans 1:20 says,
“For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead.”
There is only one eternal, spiritual, living, and true God (Mark 12:32). But He exists as three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This trio is called the trinity.
All three are intrinsically co-equal, eternal, spirit, omnipresent, omnipotent, righteous, loving, and just. Whatever they determine to do is always done with absolute unity. It would not matter which of them were the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit. They are indistinguishable because of their unity. They are one in attributes and as God.
Praying to Jesus
Can you pray to Jesus and to the Holy Spirit. Of course you can. When you pray to one in the trinity, you pray to them all. Peter cried out to Jesus in Matthew 14:30,
“Lord, save me.”
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:2,
“Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.”
And Acts 7:59 records the prayer of Stephen.
“And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
In Romans 8:26, Paul explains that our prayers are modified by the Holy Spirit to present them to the Father.
“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”
If your prayers are already intercepted by the Holy Spirit, then there is no reason you cannot pray to the Holy Spirit.
Prayer is simply talking, and so it is possible to pray to people. Joseph said to his family in Genesis 37:6,
“And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed.”
After being shipwrecked, Paul told the crew in Acts 27:34,
“Wherefore I pray you to take some meat: for this is for your health: for there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you.”
If you want to pray to God, you cannot go wrong to follow Jesus’ instructions to pray to your heavenly Father. It is to Him that Jesus prayed. Ultimately, the Father is the one in whom unity in all things is achieved.
Why am I praying?
Prayer if for your benefit, not for God’s. You need prayer because you need God.
Three purposes are fulfilled in prayer: communion, praise, and requests.
Communion is conversation with God as your friend. This is fellowship with Him.
Praise is conversation expressing gratefulness and honor to God. There is a lot to be thankful for because of who God is and what He has done.
Requests are conversations with God for needs or desires to be fulfilled. We need God. We depend on Him for life, wisdom, and blessings.
What do I say?
The best thing to say to God is whatever is on your mind. He already knows what you are thinking, so talk to Him.
There are no words to recite. Remember, prayer is an ongoing relationship with God.
In Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus told His disciples,
“After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”
You can sum up this prayer with three words: communion, praise, and requests. Communion is talking to God as a friend. You can talk to Him about anything at home, at work, or at school. Talk to Him about what you are doing, about your plans, and about His will for your life.
Praise is expressing gratefulness to God for all that He does for you, for the gift of eternal life and for being merciful and gracious. Honor Him for His greatness and acknowledge Him as your awesome Creator.
Make requests of God when you have needs and desires. Ask Him questions about your life, about the Bible, about prayer, about anything. Ask Him to give you wisdom. James 1:5 says,
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”
The Psalms are prayers that have been written down. Read through the Psalms to get ideas about what to pray for. Most of them, if not all of them, were prayer songs. They were written to be sung. You can use the Psalms to guide your own prayers. As you read through David’s prayers, add your prayers as well.
There is nothing you cannot ask God or talk to Him about. But the best thing is being able to ask Him to teach you how to understand how to pray.
How long should my prayer be?
There is no time limit on prayers. No prayer too short. The shortest prayer recorded in the Bible is Peter’s three-word prayer recorded in Matthew 14:30,
“But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.”
Should I keep my eyes closed?
The Bible says nothing about your eyes being open or closed. Remember, God is with you at all times. He is with you when you are sleeping with your eyes closed. He Is with you when you are driving down the road with your eyes open. He is with you when you’re dozing off and your eyes are half open.
God is your ever-present friend. Talk to Him in all situations while standing, sitting, kneeling, lying down, walking, or running. Your eyes, posture, and location are irrelevant to having a conversation with God.
What should I expect from God as I pray?
Expect God’s presence
Expect God to give you a sense of His presence. He is always with you, and you should have in mind that you have an ongoing conversation with Him.
The only reason that you might not sense His presence is that you are offending and insulting Him with bad choices. It might be due to a lack of experience in detecting His presence. John 14:21 says,
“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.”
If you love God, you are convinced that His will is best for you. You trust Him and obey Him. You believe that His ways are the best ways to live and follow. Such love and trust is honoring to God, and He will make His presence known to you. This is especially true when praying in communion with Him and in praise to Him.
Expect God to answer your requests
Expect God to answer all of your prayer requests. He has known every prayer request you would make before He created the world. He has known His answers too.
Ask Him to teach you how to recognize His presence and to recognize His answers. His answers may come immediately, or they may be delayed for a while. In one instance, an angel explained in Daniel 10:12-13 why the answer to Daniel’s prayer was delayed by twenty-one days.
“Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days.”
God will answer every request. It may be yes, no, or no, not yet. But every request will be answered. You need to be willing to accept His answers. Even more so, if you desire His will to be done, then you should rejoice that God’s will has been revealed in every answer.
How will God answer me?
God answers prayers in four ways. After making a request to God, be alert and look for His answer. He may speak to you while reading His Word, through the counsel of others, with circumstances, or by bringing to mind thoughts of enlightenment.
If you are struggling with hearing God, consider how He communicates. Knowing how He communicates will help you hear Him. Here are six ways God communicates.
1. In writing
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16)
“For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1:21)
“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39)
2. In visions
Second Chronicles 26:5 says of Zechariah,
“And he sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him to prosper.”
Job 33:14-16 says,
“For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed; Then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction.”
The Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:2, 4,
“I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven…. How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.”
3. By voice
After listening for the voice of God in a strong wind, an earthquake, and a fire, Elijah heard the small, still voice of God. First Kings 19:12 says,
“And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.”
Elijah learned that the voice of God does not necessarily come in an obvious way. Rather, God’s voice may be heard as a gentle, calm, and quiet thought.
4. With circumstances
God spoke to Moses from a bush (Exodus 3:1-15).
God spoke to Peter through a rooster (Mark 14:72).
God spoke to Balaam through a donkey (Numbers 22:28).
Paul wrote about learning from God in trials. He wrote in Romans 5:3-4,
“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope.”
5. Manifested presence
Paul refers to a manifestation of God’s love in those who hope in trials.
“And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Romans 5:5)
Jesus spoke of personally manifesting Himself to those who love Him.
“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” (John 14:21)
6. Through others
God told His disciples to train disciples in order to keep His teachings perpetuated from generation to generation. In Acts 20:27, Paul says,
“For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.”
In 1 Corinthians 11:23, Paul writes,
“For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you.”
And Luke 7:30 is an indictment against those who did not listen to the counsel of God spoken by John the Baptist.
“But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.”
Keep your prayer life well-rounded with communion, praise, and requests. Nurture your relationship with God, be thankful, and admit that you need God in your life.
Friendship involves a two-way conversation, so you will want to listen to God. But to do this, you need to have a sense of His presence and recognize when He is talking to you. This will not be vocal conversation as you would have physically with another person. So don’t listen for that. Listen and watch for God’s answers in His Word, in circumstances, in counsel from others, and by personal experience of faith.
Changing your life for good
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Ask God to teach you more about prayer. And search for more articles in my blog for more insights into prayer.
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