Next to our very precious salvation, prayer is the greatest gift we have from our loving Father. In prayer, we clumsy, defective humans get to communicate with the One who is so powerful, even our amazing brains don’t come anywhere close to comprehending His magnificence.
Besides the book of Psalms, which might be called a book of prayers, there are also many prayers throughout the Old and New Testament. Moses prays for Israel in the Wilderness. Solomon prays for the newly finished Temple. Mary prays for the gift of the Son of Man. In times of great trouble or tremendous joy, believers lift their voices to supplicate and praise an awesome God.
Before Christ tore away the curtain, the only people who had direct access to God were the High Priests, who went into the most Holy of Holies to be in communion with the most direct connection to God humans at that point had. But, when Christ died on the cross for our sins, we were given an intercessor who gives us direct access to God any time we take advantage of it. The Holy Spirit, who dwells in those who believe that Christ is the Savior, is who makes it possible for us to know that when we call out to God, He is always listening.
God promises to answer every prayer. Because His answer can be no, we often forget that God doesn’t break His promises. Have you experienced times in your life that, in retrospect, were important growth opportunities because God said no? Our limited perspective is incapable of seeing things from God’s big picture view. But learning to embrace faith in God’s ability to guide things to the good makes praying an act of truly trusting God’s will.
Jesus gave us all a pattern for praying, the Lord’s Prayer. Whether we say it word for word or use it as a pattern for our communication with God, this prayer is the starting point for any believer’s path to better conversations with the LORD.
Our Father, who art in heaven, the prayer begins, hallowed be thy name. Begin any prayer by coming to God in full knowledge of his holiness. God is the master of the universe and your life. When you approach Him in the humility fostered by this view of His awesomeness, you will be offering your most truthful, sincere self to the One who already knows what you are going to say and yet wants to hear it from you anyway.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, is the next section of this prayer. We can only ever expect God to answer our prayers when those prayers are in alignment with His will. If you pray for a nicer car or other material luxuries, you are much less likely to be in the will of God as when you are praying for your relationship with Him or the welfare of yourself and others.
Give us this day our daily bread, the prayer continues. We have the right to ask of God the things we need to make it through each day. Because God takes care of us from day to day, we are encouraged not to let tomorrow, which might never happen anyway, or the past, which is done and unchangeable, not misdirect our focus from the present moment. The present, this day, is the only thing we really have, and Jesus encourages us to trust Him to take care of our needs each day.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who trespass against us, comes next. The core value of prayer is the relationship we have with our God. Because sin separates us from God, only when we recognize our own foibles and bring them to God in our repentance do we come back into relationship with Him through the grace of Christ. Equally important, this section of the prayer reminds us, is our ability to forgive others just as Christ has forgiven us. If we can’t pay mercy forward, Christ tells us, then why should God be expected to overlook the sins we all carry?
Many manuscripts end the Lord’s Prayer with this plea: And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. The narrow path of walking a Christ-centered life in a fallen world means we will be exposed to evil. A prayer that acknowledges that we live in a world where the devil is very active helps us to understand how very important our ongoing relationship with God is to our survival. We can only stand against what we recognize as a threat.
Holiness, thankfulness, neediness, forgiveness, cleanliness–these conditions of our relationship with God are what should guide our conversations with Him. Ever wonder how we can call prayer a conversation when only we humans are talking? We can find God’s side of the conversation in His Word, where many of the answers to life’s questions can be discovered if only we will read and study the Bible in a Holy Spirit-guided way.
Your prayers don’t have to be award-winning poetry. Paul tells us they can even be groanings that are not words but still convey our needs to the Father. What prayers need to be are our honest, humble attempts to enter into a relationship with our most powerful, loving God.
Say what you feel to the LORD-ALL-POWERFUL. Anytime, anyplace, anywhere–He’s listening.