Can I ask you something? How’s your prayer life doing?
If you’re like most Christians, it’s probably pretty much non-existent. You’re lucky if you thank the Lord for your lunch, let alone spend enough time to classify as having had conversation with God.
Why is that? Why do we spend little or no time in conversation with our God, when His word clearly states that He hears us, that He wants us to pray, and that He answers?
I think one of the main problems is that we don’t know how to pray. As we’ve grown as Christians, we haven’t learned what the Bible says about prayer and applied it to our lives. If we want to pray and be effective at it, we must learn how to do it properly. God says He wants us to talk to Him and then He lays out clearly how to do it through His Word.
Here are five exhortations for your prayer life. Take these back to Scripture, check your own life, and ask the Lord which ones you need to grow in.
1. Pray Specifically
When you pray, make sure you pray specifically. Don’t make generalizations. Don’t just pray, “Lord, please bless so-and-so…” Remember, when you’re talking with God, He’s listening to you very intently, as an interested father. 1 Peter 3:12 says, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer.” He’s not just sitting their with His head buried in the Sunday paper, mumbling, “uh-huh” every three seconds. He is paying direct attention to you. He wants you to speak your heart, to be open and honest and specific. Tell Him exactly what is on your heart. Tell him exactly how you feel. Praise and thank Him specifically for the things you are thankful for. And when you ask things of Him, ask specifically.
2. Pray Humbly
James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Scripture makes it clear that God despises pride, but loves humility. It may seem obvious, but if you come before God with pride in your heart, you are hindering your own prayers. Holding onto pride means you still think you can do it yourself and you don’t need Him. Check your own heart for that kind of pride. If you find it, confess it and come before Him knowing and saying that you can’t make it on your own. Even Jesus came before His father in humility. “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” (Hebrews 5:7) If Jesus, the Son of God, came to God in complete humility, how much more should we?
3. Pray Boldly
Praying boldly may seem like a contradiction to praying humbly, but Paul tells us in Hebrews 4:16 to, “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Imagine you’re visiting Washington, D.C. and you decide that you’re going to just march into the White House, go into the Oval Office without even knocking, and plop down in a chair for a chat with the President. You’d never do it! You’ll never have that kind of access to the President. But God, who is infinitely more powerful and awesome than any President could ever be, is giving you direct and immediate access to his Oval Office. No ID required, no pat-down, no hassle—instant access. How do we have that? Because of Jesus. We get in because we know the President’s son, and because of this, we can come boldly and make our requests. Not because of who we are—we wouldn’t make it past the gate—but because of who Jesus is.
4. Pray In The Spirit
Jesus once explained in an illustration that He is the vine and we are the branches. Our job is to remain attached to Him. If we do this, we will grow and “bear fruit.” Branches will never be able to do anything on their own—if they are disconnected from the vine they are useless. When we pray, we need to pray correctly by praying God’s will. Jesus said, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” If you want to see your prayers answered, remain in Christ by walking in the Spirit. This means relying completely on Him, not trying to be good or do what’s right on your own. It means allowing Him to change you, discipline you, mold you and make you into whatever He wishes. As you allow Him that control in your life, when you pray, you will naturally be praying God’s will.
5. Pray Expectantly
As you learn to pray in the Spirit, when you pray God’s will, you should pray expecting Him to work. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that, “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Have faith and wait in joyful expectation of what God is going to do. In Luke 11, Jesus says, “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” God is infinitely better than the best of fathers and He loves to give good gifts to His children.
These are just a few ways to grow in your prayer life. The Bible is full of guidance for us in communicating with our great God. If you want to continue to grow in effective prayer, study the Bible. Do a word-study on the word “prayer.” Study (and pray) the prayers of David, Jesus, and Paul. Read a good book or a devotional on prayer. As you study, write down what you learn, meditate on it, and then live it out!