How Do You Pray?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, August 18, 2014 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

As followers of Jesus, we’re often told to pray, encouraged to pray more, or even told to pray about certain things. But what exactly does that mean? What exactly is prayer, and how do we do it?

At its most basic level, prayer is a conversation between you and God. It can be an individual prayer that only you and God knows, or it can be a corporate prayer where a group of people pray together. It can be spoken aloud, it can be whispered, or even just thought in your head - God hears them all.

Interestingly, a Google search defines prayer as “a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship.” But I think that definition only covers half of it. Yes, prayer is us as humans talking to God. But, prayer is also God speaking to us! We don’t often think of prayer that way, and in corporate worship services we don’t often allow time for God to speak to us. We spend all of our time in prayer telling God things and asking God for things, and precious little time just listening for God to speak to us.

That brings me to the next answer, to the question of how we “do” prayer. We’ll start with the easier part - the part where we talk to God. Jesus Himself taught us to pray, as recorded both in Matthew 6:9-15 and Luke 11:1-4. This is commonly known as the Lord’s Prayer, since Jesus spoke it to His disciples. Many people use this prayer as one they recite often.

There are also other models for prayer that give us a guideline if we don’t know what to say. One such model is known as ACTS - Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. Adoration is praising God for who He is. Confession is telling God what we’ve done wrong in our lives. Thanksgiving is thanking God for the blessings He has given us. Finally, supplication is asking God for things we want Him to do. I appreciate the order of this model, because the focus is first on praising God, and you don’t get to asking God for your laundry list of requests until the very end.

But as I said before, us talking to God is just half of prayer - even though many people seem to think that’s the main (or sole) purpose of prayer. The other part is listening to what God has to say to us. Prayer is a 2-way street, not just 1-way of us to God. You wouldn’t have a conversation with a friend by you doing all the talking and never listening to what the other person has to say, would you? Since prayer is a conversation with God, we should treat it the same way, although with even more respect since we are conversing with the God of the entire universe!

God assures us that He will answer us when we pray to Him. Jeremiah 33:3 says, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Even though this verse was originally given to the prophet Jeremiah for the people of Israel, it still holds true for us today. Similarly, in Psalm 32:8, God says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” God will speak to us when we allow Him to.

But how do we listen to God? Well, how would you listen to a friend speaking to you? The most important thing is to be quiet. You can’t hear what someone else is telling you when you’re still talking or have a lot of noise in the background. We also need to get rid of other distractions. You can’t have a meaningful conversation with a friend if you are distracted by playing on your phone, while listening to music, and someone else interrupts you. To have a conversation with God, you must focus on Him and Him alone. Remove all distractions, sit quietly, and listen - if you are listening for God’s voice, He will speak to you.

So how do you pray? Have a conversation with God. Focus on Him and Him alone. Share your life with God, but also listen so He can share the plans He has for you and your life. If you’re not accustomed to listening to God in prayer, I encourage you to give it a try this week.