To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible to be alive without breathing. (Martin Luther)
Many of us would agree that prayer is fundamental to our faith. Yet most people would admit they have a fear of praying. A feeling of inadequacy.
Is there a right way to pray? How do you know if you are praying correctly or not?
The more I talk with people about the subject of prayer, the more I realize how pressing these questions really are. Here are four tips from scripture to help give you a vibrant prayer life.
1. Pray Genuinely.
Just before Jesus was arrested he prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.”
Jesus’ soul was overwhelmed and filled with anguish as he looked forward to the cost of redemption. His prayer was authentic and genuine. This was his prayer three times! He longed for another way and he asked God if there was one.
Ultimately, he wanted the will of the Father to be carried out over his own desire. But that prayer was a battle. So much so that Jesus sweated like drops of blood. Prayer isn’t always neat and tidy.
We can pray the same way. Our prayers need to be genuine. It is not about how eloquent and theologically robust you can be.
Prayer is far more about your relationship with God than it is a religious mandate.
I find myself gravitating to people who are genuine and honest. Those people who show a little too much. Maybe that is because I am one of those people. I enjoy these kind of communicators because I can truly know them.
This is what God wants. He wants the genuine and raw you.
2. Pray Scripture.
Do you ever feel like you just don’t know what to pray for?
Sometimes, my heart is too overwhelmed to speak words or maybe I just can’t focus when I set aside time to pray. That’s okay.
Some of my most fruitful times of prayer are when I pray scripture. The Word of God is filled with the truth of who God is and who he created us to be. What better way to pray than the very truth of God’s word?
Dale recently had the high school students at our church pray through scripture. Once they got passed being uncomfortable, it was really amazing! To sit alongside a group of girls praying through Psalm 139 was a true blessing. As the students prayed such deep truths into their own lives they began to interact with the Word of God in a way many of them never had before.
Praying scripture realigns our prayers to God’s larger purpose. It allows us to take the focus off of ourselves and pray back to God the very words he gave us.
We even see the early Church praying scripture in the book of Acts. Praying scripture most naturally leads our prayer life into worshipping and edifying God.
3. Pray Ugly.
I have prayed a countless amount of ugly prayers where snot is coming out of my nose and the true ugly of my heart boils up to the surface.
When my mom died, my prayers were full of ugly. I prayed with anger, sadness, frustration and rage. This may feel a little uncomfortable for your truest self to come out in your prayers. But this is where God wants to be.
God doesn’t want you to clean yourself up in prayer, but for you to be genuine, real, and yes, even ugly.
In the Psalms we see writers asking, “[God] why do you hide when I am in trouble?… Do not ignore the helpless!” (Psalm 10:1, 12)
Or in Psalm 137:8-9, the psalmist is full of rage by the injustice around him.
Even the dark ugly prayers of being pushed to the end of yourself. Elijah prayed, “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life” (1 Kings 19:4).
We see all forms of prayers and expression of humanity’s heart in scripture. God welcomes all of your prayers, whether you come with words full of worship and adoration, with no words at all, or with all your ugly being laid to bare before Jesus.
God truly wants you in your prayers. He doesn’t want a polished, ritual-filled, eloquently planned version of you.
4. Pray Always.
As a teenager, one of the greatest lessons my mom ever taught me was also one of the things that drove me crazy. It always seems to work out that way.
But from very early on in her faith she resolved to pray for everything. It didn’t matter what life situation I brought to her or how many tears I shed, we always ended up praying. She didn’t do this out of a religious obligation, but because she knew her advice and opinions would always fall short.
It becomes so easy to feel like we have graduated from the need to pray for everything all the time, but we don’t.
Every single day of our lives we are in desperate need of prayer. We need to seek the face of the Lord with everything, because we fall short.
We should never grow out of our need to come before our God. In times of success, loss, turmoil, shame, anger, joy…In all things and for all things. We need to pray.
If Jesus, God in the flesh, devoted his life to pray then so should we.
May God bless you with a vibrant prayer life that is transformative for your soul.