“This then is how you should pray.” (Matthew 6:9)
After looking at who has invited us to pray and seeing all that God is and has revealed about Himself, the next question is what exactly is prayer and how are we supposed to do it? Luckily, God addresses this question many times in the Bible.
One definition of prayer is a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God. Prayer is definitely made up of those two components: appeal and praise. Really, it is meant to be a dialogue with God. Simply put, He wants us to talk with Him.
All throughout the Old Testament and New Testament we see believers praying to God. Prayer takes many forms from public songs to intimate whispers. Some prayers are just groans from the heart only audible to the Lord because words simply cannot be found. Other prayers are shared out loud in the presence of crowds of believers and non-believers. We even have some prayers to God written down and recorded for us in the Bible.
For instance, King David wrote down many of his prayers to God, which were later compiled in the book of Psalms. Since prayer is merely communication, we see all kinds of emotion and circumstances experienced within Psalms. Some prayers are full of joy and praise while others are full of anger and despair. Most importantly, however, is that they are real and authentic.
No one likes it when you skirt an issue or hold back the whole truth from them – and God does not either. How can there be open relationship if someone is lying, withholding or not being authentic? God specifically warns us in Matthew 6:7, “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” Yes, God ultimately knows our words before we speak them and He knows our heart inside and out, but prayer is about communication and relationship. He wants us to be real with Him.
In Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus gives us a blueprint for what prayer should look like. “Our Father in heaven hallowed by your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
In this prayer, we see reverence and honor to God as well as intimacy and love. We also see request and concern as well as repentance and fear. As humans the requests and fears seem to come out almost subconsciously, but oftentimes the praise, trust and repentance takes much more intentionality. As the Apostle Paul put it: “Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart” (Colossians 4:2).
All this to say, prayer is merely communication or dialogue with God. It is powerful not because we talk, but because He listens and wants to have a genuine, personal relationship with us. In this way, we need to be transparent and open with God. Our prayers are not meant to be empty words but instead are supposed to draw us closer to Him in trust and relationship. There is no one way to pray because prayer fits so many different situations and scenarios. However, Jesus did leave us with a blueprint of the elements that should fill our prayers.
So fill this day by talking with our Lord and Savior! It is less about what you say and more about what you believe. Come to Him with reverence and praise and just be honest with Him and watch your relationship together grow.
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