How to Pray
Lockdown has been a time of trying new things, and in the past weeks many people have been joining online church services. For some, it will be the first service they have been to in a while.
Prayer is a key part of any meeting of believers – but it can sometimes feel strange when other people seem to pray effortlessly but you have no idea where to start.
God cares about you and longs to hear from you, and the reopening of churches for private prayer may be a good opportunity to try praying yourself, if you haven’t before. Here are some useful pointers to help you talk to Him.
The Lord’s Prayer
A good starting point for structuring your prayers is the Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name – addressing God and praising Him for all He has done
Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven – acknowledging He is in control and not us
Give us today our daily bread – ask God for what we need
And forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors – confessing and repenting of our sins, as well as forgiving those who have hurt you
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one – asking for help in overcoming sin and for protection from Satan’s attacks
While Jesus Himself taught this prayer, He does not say that this is the only way to pray…
When should I pray?
Nowadays we can send a text anywhere, anytime. Equally, we can pray to God wherever and whenever. Just like texting, prayer is communication with God – it can be brief or lengthy, and the best bit is that the person you’re talking to loves you unconditionally! Unlike a text though, we don’t even have to use any words: the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself….intercedes for God’s people (Romans 8:26-27)
It can be useful to have a routine of prayer, similar to how you might call relatives at the same time each week. Don’t be afraid, however, to pray spontaneously when something prompts you – such as hearing somebody is ill, or when you see something wonderful in God’s creation. God promises to always listen to you: we know that He hears us – whatever we ask (1 John 5:15)
Prayer should not be regarded as a duty…but rather as a privilege to be enjoyed (E.M. Bounds)
What should I pray for?
Firstly, remember how powerful God is. We shouldn’t put limits on His ability to do anything – He parted the Red Sea (Exodus 14), made a blind man see (John 9:1-12) and, ultimately, raised His son Jesus from the dead. God will be listening and working in even the smallest of prayers: if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there” and it will move (Matthew 17:20)
It is also good to listen to God before you pray. You can do this by reading the Bible, and sermons can help direct you too. After all, reading the Bible helps us know God more and communication is much easier when we know someone well! Let Him shape and inspire your conversation with Him.
Don’t be afraid to be persistent either, especially you are praying for something God has put on your heart. None of your prayers will go unanswered, even if the answer is “wait” or is a different solution to what we expect. God’s plan is perfect and we will understand more once we’re in heaven: You do not realise now what I am doing, but later you will understand (John 13:7)
Who should I pray for?
With so many situations to pray for, it can be hard to know where to start. Here are a couple of ideas:
You can imagine circles working outwards, beginning with yourself then moving onto your partner or family, then your friends and church. Finally you can consider your nation and then the world. Some of these are very large topic – so try to listen to, or to feel, what God is saying you should pray for in that moment.
Another idea is to use the fingers on your hand starting with your thumb, which is strongest, to represent those who support and sustain you. The pointing index finger reminds us of those who guide and help us while the tallest, middle finger, represents our governments and leaders. The weak ring finger reminds us to pray for the helpless and weak and the final little finger represents yourself.
Remember it is okay to pray simply. As Joyce Meyer says, Prayer is simply talking to God like a friend and should be the easiest thing we do each day.
Fancy giving it a try?
The Try Praying initiative is an excellent 7 day guide to praying and shows it is much easier than you think! A lot of churches, including Bristo, have these booklets outside so pick one up as you’re passing.
Alternatively, Bristo Baptist Church will be reopening for private prayer soon. (You can check the website for announcements.) Members of the congregation will be on hand to answer any questions you may have, and to provide even more ideas on how to pray.