Last week’s post by James was on prayer and it got me thinking — I think prayer is probably one of the things I struggle with the most.
When I was in 1st grade, I went to a Christian school. Every morning, one student would pray for the entire classroom and it would rotate each day based on our last name. At that time — and still today — I did not like to get in front of the classroom. At all. Much less, speak in front of the classroom. So I dreaded it every day until it was my turn. On my day, though, I got up, I prayed and I ended it by saying, “Amen.”
That was how I was taught to pray. Everyone before me had ended their prayer by saying, “In Jesus’ name, Amen.” I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with either way, but my teacher believed that we absolutely had to say “In Jesus’ name” at the end of our prayers. She spoke with me and my parents and I was so embarrassed. My parents agreed with me and I asked to not have to pray in front of the classroom anymore. So I didn’t.
And since then, I’ve avoided praying in front of others. I used to (incorrectly) validate that by reading Matthew 6:5–6, “ ‘And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.’ ”
But I wasn’t praying in front of others because I was protecting myself from boasting through prayer or trying to put on a show of how much I loved Jesus. I was avoiding praying in front of others because I was afraid of what they might think of my prayers, or I just didn’t know what to say or how to say it. That isn’t praying to God. That’s praying for others.
And when I do pray alone, I still worry about what to say or how to say it. It seems really intimidating to just be able to pray to the Creator. Thankfully, we aren’t praying alone. We have the Holy Spirit to guide us. And God knows exactly what is on our hearts.
“For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Romans 8:26b
But just because God knows what we need, that doesn’t mean we can just skip over prayer. Just like we need to talk with our friends and family to grow those relationships, we need to talk to God in order to grow closer to Him. And it isn’t just talking. This is communication. It involves talking and listening.
I have found two resources that have helped me in prayer. The first is the acronym PRAY:
Praise. Thank God for who He is and for all He has done.
Repent. Ask for forgiveness from your sins and ask for the strength to continually turn away from those sins.
Ask. Ask God for what you need.
Yield. Submit to His will and then listen for His voice.
I also started listening to the Pray the Word with David Platt podcast. It has helped me to connect the Bible and prayer. It starts with reading Scripture and then a brief explanation of the text with a point of how it connects to prayer. Then it ends with a prayer. I think it’s a good way to start your day with God’s word through the Bible and through prayer. If you have found other resources to help you with your prayer life, I’d love if you could share below.
It’s too easy to just point at what we are struggling with the most and never try to improve. It’s well past time for me to focus on improving my prayer life. It might not start with praying aloud for small group or family dinners (although that is still something that I need to work on). But I can start by focusing my prayers in my devotional time and growing my prayers throughout the day.