How to pray

So what about prayer?  How can we step it up a notch?

Prayer is probably one of the greatest overlooked tools in the believers arsenal.  Adrian Rogers says it like this, “There’s not a more important subject in all the world for a Christian than to learn how to pray.  Not only to learn how to pray, but pray with power.” I want to look at Matthew 6:9 in three versions of the Bible.

Matthew 6:9  English Standard Version

“Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.'”

Matthew 6:9  King James Version

“After this manner therefore pray ye: ‘Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.'”

Matthew 6:9 New International Version

“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.'”

Notice how every translation carries the same emphasis:  don’t just pray the words of this prayer, pray in this manner.  Have you ever noticed not just the words that Jesus used, but HOW he prayed them?  Tonight our church kicked off a 24-hour prayer vigil.  It is so amazing to watch people pour out their hearts to God!  Take a few minutes and read through some well-known prayers from the Bible.  Pay close attention not only to the words, but also to the heart behind them.

Solomon’s prayer in 1 Kings 8:22-30
“Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven; and he said: ‘LORD God of Israel, there is no God in heaven above or on earth below like You, who keep Your covenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts. You have kept what You promised Your servant David my father; You have both spoken with Your mouth and fulfilled it with Your hand, as it is this day. Therefore, LORD God of Israel, now keep what You promised Your servant David my father, saying, ‘You shall not fail to have a man sit before Me on the throne of Israel, only if your sons take heed to their way, that they walk before Me as you have walked before Me.’ And now I pray, O God of Israel, let Your word come true, which You have spoken to Your servant David my father.'”

David’s prayer of gratitude in 2 Samuel 7:18-29
“Then King David went in and sat before the LORD and prayed, ‘Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And now, Sovereign LORD, in addition to everything else, you speak of giving me a lasting dynasty! Do you deal with everyone this way, O Sovereign LORD? What more can I say? You know what I am really like, Sovereign LORD. For the sake of your promise and according to your will, you have done all these great things and have shown them to me.’

‘How great you are, O Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you–there is no other God. We have never even heard of another god like you! What other nation on earth is like Israel? What other nation, O God, have you redeemed from slavery to be your own people? You made a great name for yourself when you rescued your people from Egypt. You performed awesome miracles and drove out the nations and gods that stood in their way. You made Israel your people forever, and you, O LORD, became their God.’

‘And now, O LORD God, do as you have promised concerning me and my family. Confirm it as a promise that will last forever. And may your name be honored forever so that all the world will say, ‘The LORD Almighty is God over Israel!’ And may the dynasty of your servant David be established in your presence.'”

Stephen’s prayer as he was being stoned in Acts 7:59-60
“While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he fell on his knees and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he fell asleep.”

Paul’s prayer for the believers in Colossians 1:9-12
“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.”

Lastly, what we call The Lord’s Prayer where Jesus teaches us to pray.  Pay attention to not just the words said, but the heart behind it.
Matthew 6:9-15
9 “Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread,  12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’ 14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

It’s time to not just pray with strategic words, but pray with passion! Pour your heart out to the only one who can truly love you back with an everlasting, deep, pure passion. C.S. Lewis says it well
“I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God- it changes me.”

One thought on “How to pray

  1. I love your emphasis on praying with passion, with the whole heart behind the prayer. Looking for “earnest” in the ESV, here are some examples. It must have been really important that these were “earnest” :
    > 1 Thessalonians 3:10— “as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith”
    > Acts 12:5— “So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.”
    > Luke 22:44— “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”
    > Matthew 9:38— “therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

    What does this mean for my prayer life? If I am going to reflect and pray for deep needs until I am emotional or loud or something, I am pretty sure I want to be alone with God, or with people who I am really close to. And I can only pray like this about things or people that I really care about. On some issues, I think I need to ask God to break my heart about it first, before I can pray earnestly.

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