Prayer is a word that we like to throw around and use on a daily basis. But how many of us truly understand what it means to pray? What do you actually want when you ask someone to pray for you? Do you have a particular way in mind of how things should pan out? When you say you will pray for someone do you actually do it or has this just become some sort of phrase we use to comfort others?
Unfortunately, a lot of the time when we pray, we are doing so expecting God to respond how we would have him. If you study the Sermon on the Mount you will discover a better image of prayer. In this portion of Christ’s dialogue with his disciples Jesus tells his disciples how and when to pray. If we truly take prayer to be as Christ says it is then our lives will be transformed. When you consistently engage in genuine, meaningful conversation with God incredible things start to happen. The more you listen and interact with God the better you are able to discern what his plans are for you as opposed to what you believe should happen.
Sometimes public prayer has less to do about speaking to God and more about speaking to the people present. Public prayers can become wordy or mechanical, not allowing the Spirit of God to move. Prayer within a community can be powerful. Jesus warns his disciples not to pray like the hypocrites who pray to be seen. You should pray not to impress but pray so that God may transform lives. He also warns his disciples not to be wordy and empty in their prayers, but then instructs them to pray like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
One 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.”
This prayer is so powerful. Take some time to analyze each sentence and notice how this prayer is focused on letting God transform you. Try to pray this prayer each morning when you arise.
Lastly, I would like to encourage you to spend some time in silence – no music or distractions. Leave your phone in another room on silent. Let yourself be completely emptied of all worries and fears so that God may enter in. Silence causes us to be vulnerable and open, usually helping us to learn things about ourselves. In silence we allow God to speak. Listen. Even if you don’t feel that God is speaking to you know that he is present. This is can be a profound experience.
God speaks to people in a variety of ways. It is unique for every individual. It can be hard to tell when God may be speaking. Know that he will not command you to go against the Word or teachings of Christ. This doesn’t mean what he asks of you will be easy. Jesus asked a rich man to literally give up everything he had to follow him!
The more time you spend with God, getting to know him, the better you will understand how he speaks to you. Take some time to listen today. Don’t think about what may just have happened or what is coming, be fully present. Be completely silent. Try this for a short period of time one day and then later in the week try to go for an even longer time. Make silence a daily practice, even if it is only for a short time each day. Free yourself of all distraction. Recognize the presence of God. And allow Him to work.