To be regular in private prayer day by day.
The second thing in our series about how to live as a Christian is prayer. Let’s think a bit about what prayer is before we think about how we should pray and some practical tips for how you can pray day by day.
What is prayer?
Prayer is nothing more complicated than “talking to God”. There’s no magic formula involved, no set ritual you have to use, no specific times of day. You can talk to God at any time. You don’t have to pray out loud, you can pray in your head if you want. It can be with others or on your own. Prayer can be short (it can even be one word – “HELP!”) or it can be long. It can be formal or informal.
The most important thing is not the way that we pray, but rather that we pray! Prayer is an expression of dependence on our heavenly Father – prayer is what God wants us to do because we love him and he loves to hear us asking for the things that we need.
How should we pray?
Although there isn’t a set form of words when you pray, Jesus did teach us how to pray in the Lord’s Prayer. The Lord’s Prayer isn’t a set prayer for us to use every time we pray (although you can pray it like that). It’s more like a template, something for us to expand on as we learn to pray. Let’s work our way through it and see how Jesus wants us to pray.
Our Father in heaven
It’s important when we pray to remember that we are praying to “our Father” in heaven. Think about the best earthly fathers – even if you haven’t had a good relationship with your own, you know that Fathers should listen and be there to help us and provide what we need. Jesus said:
Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!Matthew 7:9-11
So when we pray, we remember that we are coming to our heavenly Father who loves us and has our best interests at heart.
Hallowed be your name
“Hallowed” is a word which we don’t really use much any more! It means something like, “may your name be kept holy”. God is ‘holy’, which means that he is unique – he is perfectly righteous, loving, just, every good thing you could think of.
It’s good to remember this as well when we come to God: he is the Creator of all the universe and we should treat him with the appropriate respect and reverence. As we learn more about God we are able to do this better.
Your kingdom come, your will be done
When we ask for God’s kingdom to come, we are asking for his purposes in the world to be accomplished. It’s basically saying to God: “I want things to be done in your ways, I want your plans to happen”. I think it also includes saying to God, “I want to be part of your plans today” – we are offering ourselves for God to use as part of his plans.
And when we ask for God’s will to be done, similarly – we are saying to God: “I want your will to be done in my life, even if it’s different to my own will.” We are submitting to God and his will for us – which is the best thing we could possibly do: God has a better plan for our lives than we could ever have!
How do we put this into practice in our prayers? If you’re praying at the start of the day, I’d suggest thinking about all the plans you have for the day and ask that God would lead you and guide you to do his will in all of them. Ask that God would help you to be of service to him in the day. You could pray the same for your family and friends too.
Give us today our daily bread
In those days in Israel, bread was simply part of their staple diet. It was essential food that they needed every day. God wants us to ask him for all the things we need – whether that may be. It’s part of expressing our dependence on him to remember that everything we have comes from God. This is why many Christians say grace before a meal, thanking him for their food.
How do we put this into practice in our prayers? I suggest thinking about all of the practical things that you need for the day – whether that be material things, or strength, or courage, or anything. Whatever you need – ask God for it.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive others
Forgiveness is really at the heart of the Christian faith. Here Jesus says we should ask for forgiveness for the things we’ve done wrong – but we should also forgive others for the things that they’ve done. Forgiveness isn’t something that we need to ask for once and then forget about – we need to come to God daily.
How do we put this into practice in our prayers? I think this one is fairly self-explanatory – maybe think of some things you need to ask for forgiveness for. You don’t need to ask for every specific thing, of course, but it doesn’t hurt to name sin sometimes. Also sometimes you might need to ask God to help you forgive other people, too!
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
Here we ask God to lead us in the right ways. In a sense we’re back where we were at the beginning, but it’s making it personal: we are asking God to lead us in the right ways and keep us from the wrong paths.
How do we put this into practice in our prayers? If there is any particular temptation you are struggling with, perhaps you could ask God to help you specifically with that. Don’t feel that you need to hide anything from God – he knows already! Just be honest and ask him for the help that you need.
When should we pray?
There is no right or wrong answer to this. The apostle Paul says in Ephesians 6:18, “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Prayer isn’t so much something that we do sometimes but it’s more like a way of life. To Christians, prayer should become like breathing – something we do instinctively.
When I was younger, I was taught to have a “quiet time” every day where I would read the Bible and pray. It took me a long time to really understand that I didn’t have to limit praying to these times – I really could pray any time and ask for God’s help on any occasion.
However, it is really helpful to have a particular set time every day which you set aside to pray. I would suggest finding a time in the morning as I like to start the day with God (start as you mean to go on!) Find somewhere you can concentrate for a few minutes. I would suggest reading the Bible and then praying – the two things really go together. Then, work through the things you want to pray for – such as working through the Lord’s Prayer. It might feel a bit strange at first, but over time it will become easier.
Tools to help you pray
There are some useful tools to help you pray. Here are a couple I use or recommend.
The PrayerMate App – PrayerMate is an App which helps you to pray. You can put in people you want to pray for, you can set reminders to pray, you can download prayers from the Bible or other things. I find it a really helpful tool to help me pray.
Time to Pray App – the Church of England has a pattern of daily prayer called, imaginatively, “prayer during the day”. It’s basically a set of readings from the Bible interspersed with prayers. Some people would find this kind of thing really helpful, others might not – but why not give it a try?
Finally – one of the best ways of learning to pray is by listening to other Christians pray. I suggest you join a local church, join a small group and pray together with other Christians (it’s much less intimidating to pray in a small group). And if your church has a prayer meeting, make it a priority to get there. Learn to pray by praying, especially praying with others.
Just for fun…
This is a fun song which is made for kids but good for adults too all about prayer and relying on God.