How Should I be Praying, Anyway??

Praying

I am the type of person who thrives on following rules, or systems, or plans.  Whatever you want to call them, that’s what I love.  If there is a checklist or guide for pretty much anything, I am a happy camper.  And, if there aren’t any lists provided, chances are I’ll create my own!

Lately, I have been working on improving my prayer life.  Now, some might say to just, ‘go ahead and pray.’  Trust me, I’ve tried that… But, I don’t feel like I really know HOW to pray.  After all, I have never actually been taught how to pray.  Even growing up in a Catholic elementary school, (where praying occurred every single day – multiple times a day), there was never a class on prayer.

And, while I know Jesus gave us an excellent example in Matthew, I was having some trouble translating that into my daily prayers.  So, after realizing I needed some extra help in this area, I decided to do some research and pick up a couple of books.

Fervent

The first book I purchased was, Fervent, by Priscilla Shirer.  After watching the movie, War Room, I knew that I needed to have a book about praying on my reference shelf.  But, as it turns out, it is not a book to keep on a shelf.  From the very first page, I realized this was not a book to just  pick my way through and read a few pages while highlighting a passage or two…

Nope.

In fact, the first few paragraphs go into how Shirer suggests the book be read.  It goes way beyond reading.   She actually EXPECTS, grass stains, ink smears, battle-scars, missing pages, and myriad other general signs of misuse for which any librarian would readily assess a massive fine.  But, to me, like Shirer, this would show that I would be actually USING the book.

I couldn’t think of a better place to start my studies.

On to Praying…

After watching, War Room, I figured that the book may be focused on  specific types of prayers.  But, what I found was there are actually ten different areas Shirer focuses on in her book.  One, in particular, is a section on praying for family.  And, for that, I was very thankful.  But, while I know how important it is to pray for your spouse and your children, I have always found it trickier to pray for myself.

I don’t know about you, but it is usually easier for me to pray for others.  I’m not sure if I feel selfish, or am still working through my feelings of unworthiness.  Regardless, I really struggle with personal requests.  So, when reading Fervent, I was happy to see a general framework that I could apply to all prayers – ones for me as well.  Through forming my prayers using these guidelines, it has helped me focus more on my requests.  Plus, I don’t feel like I’m rambling and “babbling like pagans” (Matthew 6:7 NIV).

Here is the framework suggested by Shirer:

  • Praise
  • Repentance
  • Asking
  • Yes

 

Praise

Praise God.  Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it.  But, all too often I find myself starting a prayer with Please… How often do you think God hears that word in a day?!? I’m guessing exponentially more than the words, Thank You.  I also hold fast to Philippians 4:6, which tells me to present my needs to God by prayer and petition, with thanksgivingSo, I have a tendency to begin every request by thanking Him in advance for what I am asking.  But, I have a feeling He doesn’t feel very praised just because I am using that phrase…

So, I have started to begin each prayer with genuine praise.  And, I’m not going to tell you it has been a super easy transition for me.  While I really do feel He deserves all my praise and adoration, if I find myself spontaneously praying throughout the day, it is generally because I need something.  So, I have started looking around.  Really noticing His amazing creation and all of the blessings I have been given – without even asking for them.

Although we make it part of the bedtime routine from time to time, sharing gratitude is still not 100% automatic.  (You can read about how Gratitude truly helped me in this post…)  So, now when I pray, I focus on thanking Him for what He has already done for me.  If I take the time to set aside my immediate perceived need, (and really just stop being selfish for a minute…), it is truly easy to find a million things for which I should praise God.

O Lord, I will praise you with all my heart, and tell everyone about the marvelous things you do.                 Psalm 9:1

Repentance

The first time I heard the word repent (that I can remember) was at a Bible Talk.  A woman in our group shared about how she had called her children from work one day.  During their conversation, she asked her daughter if she had repented for being difficult to her brother and sister.  I remember thinking, Wow – do people actually use that word in real life??

A little while after that, Brad and I started studying the Bible.  In our studies, of course, we ran into that word quite a few more times.  But, I still didn’t really understand what it meant.  I had only known the worldly definition from Google…

“To feel or express sincere regret or remorse.”  Hmmmm.  The more we studied, the more I realized that feeling bad or regretting something I had done in the past wasn’t really all there was to repentance.  Honestly, when I looked forward to the prospect of getting baptized, that almost seemed just too easy.  After further study, I learned that repent really means – To Turn.  It actually involves turning from sin to God.  And, not only do we speak the words, repentance is visible because the changes in our heart and mind are seen in our actions.

Repentance is so much more than regret and remorse.  It is a change of focus.  A turn from sin to God.

Now change your mind and attitude to God and turn to Him so He can cleanse away your sins and send you wonderful times of refreshment from the presence of the Lord.                        Acts 3:19

So, in prayer, I realized I needed to not only ask for forgiveness, I needed to shift my thinking and attitude.  I needed to start going into prayer with a different attitude – one of actually looking for ways to turn away from sin and towards God.

Asking

Well, this is the part I feel I have licked! I have been asking for things since I was old enough to have wants. So, really, since about birth…

Although I have changed up my wording over the years, (see above), it’s all really the same in the end.  I ask for things – a lot.  And, even though I always have some burning desire, sometimes the whole ‘asking for things‘ is a bit of a struggle for me.  Not for lack of wants, but because I question why I need to specifically list out each individual request.  After all, He knows, right? But, I was reminded, (just as I was in God Provides), that it is my responsibility to ask Him for help. And, ask Him I do…I need all the help I can get.

And if you hardhearted, sinful men know how to give good gifts to your children, won’t your Father in heaven even more certainly give good gifts to those who ask Him for them?                      Matthew 7:11

YES!

Finally, Shirer suggests that prayers end with a Yes.  Basically, this involves using verses from the Bible that demonstrate how God keeps His promises and shows His love and His perfect plans for us.

As a newer Christian, I appreciate the suggestions for verses she provides at the end of each section.  But, I also enjoy the challenge of finding others throughout the Bible that speak to me in each area as well.  I know, through my searching, I have dug deeper and learned more.  I have opened myself up to what God wants me to see and hear through His Word.

One of the more challenging aspects for me when it comes to prayer, (and really in all areas of my life…), is remembering that I am not in control.  And, although I may ask for things I believe are what I want and are good for me, God will make the ultimate decision and  give me the answer that is best for me.  Now, whether I agree with Him at the time or not, is another story…

For I know the plans I have for you, Says the Lord.  They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.                 Jeremiah 29:11

It is funny, though, how often I have been upset after a prayer had been answered in a seemingly unfavorable way.  Then, after a bit of time has passed, I look back at my prayer journal or think back to different situations and literally Thank God – out loud!  SO many times He has saved me from myself.  If He would have given me what I asked for, the ripples from that one decision would have had unimaginable effects.

What I Learned

I appreciated Shirer’s approach to prayer.  It is a good starting method for me to use to solidify my process of praying.  I am grateful for her suggestions for the framework upon which I can build my prayers.  Even though I still haven’t had a formal lesson or class on prayer, I definitely feel more comfortable.  And, hopefully, God doesn’t look at me as the repeating heathen anymore…

Your thoughts?

What are your thoughts on how to pray?  What have you learned in your studying out of this area?  I would love to hear about specific verses that come to mind when you go to God in prayer.  Can’t wait to hear from all of you!

 

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