Written by Joy Fisher
Published by Life Christian Resources
"Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I ask the Lord my soul to take."
"God is great. God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. Amen."
When we were children, our prayers were simple. We practiced saying grace and bedtime prayers, repeating after our parents in rote memorization. But what about now? Have your prayers remained repetitive and tentative? A vibrant, meaningful prayer life accompanies a mature faith and close walk with God.
The Best Example
“Teach us to pray,” the disciples said. They were eyewitnesses to the ministry of Jesus, yet they still needed some guidance on prayer. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
These beautiful words are those of Jesus in the prayer He modeled for His disciples and for us, recorded in Matthew 6:9-13.
In his book, The Prayer of Jesus, Ken Hemphill explains each line of the Lord’s Prayer in detail. Praying as Jesus taught, with an attitude of expectation and a desire to communicate with the Father, sets our hearts right; our focus is shifted from ourselves to the worship of God and the service of others.
Prayer mirrors the depth of our relationship with God. “I view prayer as a continuous conversation with God,” says Catherine, a doctoral student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Looking back on the prayer journal she keeps, she can see a clear record of the ways God has moved in response to prayer. And that record reminds her of His love and faithfulness – encouraging her to keep at the relationship and challenging her to rely on Him more and more.
Prayer deepens your faith, broadens your empathy for others and helps you see God constantly at work in our world. If you struggle with what to pray about, simply ask God to open your eyes.
Use Scripture as a basis for prayer. Beth Moore’s book, Praying God's Word, teaches you how to break free from the spiritual strongholds in your life by correlating your own prayers with Scripture. Each of the 14 chapters contain Scripture-prayer combinations to guide you through specific strongholds.
Read the newspaper. It’s full of the names of people who desperately need prayer. The family of a murder victim. The convicted felon sentenced to prison (and the family he will leave behind). Political leaders. Molested and abducted children. Professional athletes. Hollywood actors. You may never meet these people, but you can ask God to lead, guide, comfort, and convict hearts. And He will.
Intercede for people you know. Somebody’s always changing jobs, getting married or divorced, or having a difficult day. Voice prayers of thankful gratitude when you hear good news.
Pray in everyday moments. Pray for your doctor as you sit in the waiting room. For your neighbor as he mows his grass. For the occupants of that speeding ambulance. Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 tell us to “pray continually.”
Start with a thank you. In the same passage, Paul also says to “give thanks in all circumstances.” Thank God for the blessings in your life, big or small. Being thankful can often open the skies in your prayer life. Thank God for your burger at lunch or for your new promotion. Thank Him for another day to live.
Pray the small stuff. When you’re at a loss for words, begin with the things you know, the everyday things around you. Voice your concerns to God, whether they seem legitimate or not.
Try a prayerful posture. Those old knees can take the heat.
Pray out loud. Sometimes talking out loud to God can make prayer a more conversational situation. And when you pray out loud, pray from your heart. Don’t try to impress God with fancy words. Jesus even warned against this (Matthew 6:5-8).
Use a map. Pick a region, country, or city and intercede for it every day for at least a week. Pray for that area’s leaders, for believers to be encouraged, and for God to bring revival.
Garth Brooks sings a song in which he thanks God for an unanswered prayer. It’s a nice sentiment, but pitiful theology. God hears and answers every prayer of His children. "Yes," "No," and "Wait" are all viable answers.
Judy, a registered nurse in Tennessee, felt led to share Christ with a college friend named Susan. “That may be for you,” Susan responded, “but it’s not for me.” Judy felt she had failed in one of her first attempts to witness. As her contact with Susan dwindled, Judy continued to pray for God to intervene in Susan’s life. Five years later, Susan was killed in a tragic car accident. At the funeral, Judy was surprised and delighted to learn that Susan had become a Christian the previous year. Judy says, “God used that experience in my young Christian walk to teach me His faithfulness. He uses both answered and seemingly unanswered prayer to build our trust in Him.”
One little book has ignited a flurry of attention on the power of prayer. The Prayer of Jabez, which has sold around 9 million copies since its release in April 2000, shares a simple petition, taken from 1 Chronicles 4:10: “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil” (NKJV).
The Prayer of Jabez author Bruce Wilkinson, who has used this prayer for three decades, encourages readers to pray the simple four lines daily for 30 days, watching and waiting for what God will do.
John Franklin is a pastoral ministries specialist in prayer at LifeWay Christian Resources. He believes The Prayer of Jabez is popular because it gives believers confidence that “If I pray, there really will be a difference made.” Franklin points out 1 Chronicles 4:9, which precedes Jabez’s prayer. The verse says Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. “God doesn’t so much answer our prayer as He answers the heart of the one praying,” he shares. “Jabez had tremendous character, and God responded to him because of his character.”
Before you pray examine your heart to check that it is in tune with God's. If your prayers feel stale and routine, ask him to help you. A revaltalized, creative prayer life is a wonderfully transforming thing.