I am pretty horrible at praying.
This is something I’ve written about on my blog many times before.
I’m just not good at it.
I love to study Scripture and teach Scripture (applying Scripture to my life? Not so much. That hurts. That’s hard.). I read commentaries for fun on Saturdays when I’m stuck at home. I think one reason I love to study and teach Scripture is because I see very tangible results. I grow in knowledge. Books I finish go on my ‘finished’ book shelf in my office. Sermons I’ve preached and Bible studies I’ve taught are saved in my Logos Bible software. I can go back to them again and again.
Prayer? That’s 99% of the time for me something not tangible.
Yeah, sure, the popcorn prayers throughout my day normally get ‘answered’. Like today I ran three miles and regularly panted out “God, don’t let me die”. And alas, die I did not.
But, when it comes to the deeper prayers of my heart, I don’t get to see tangible results.
“God, work in the lives of our students. Grow our youth ministry in depth.”
“God, work in the lives of my family members. Draw us all collectively closer to You.”
“God, grow Your joy and peace in me.”
Those things are 99% not quantifiable. Rarely if ever have I gotten a call or text from a student who just wants to tell me about their walk with God (Although I once got a call from a student who excitedly shared with me their Fortnite experience from the night before). Family members don’t just message out of the blue how they’re growing spiritually. Joy and peace in my heart? No idea if that’s growing or not.
Prayer doesn’t lead me to tangible results.
Yet, prayer is an unavoidable habit to be pursued as a follower of Jesus. It’s not something where I can say “I’m not good at it” and then never engage in it. That’s not how it works.
So, if you’re like me, a dummy when it comes to prayer, I want to share with you some encouragement. These are not tips and tricks for a vibrant prayer life (maybe I should have named this blog “Seven steps to mountain-moving, life-changing, Spirit-empowered prayer”). These are Biblically-based truths about prayer.
Since these are Biblically-based, lets read the passage that got me thinking about all this in the first place!
For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, – Ephesians 1:15-17
This passage moves on to some beautiful truths about who Jesus is, what He has done, and who we are in light of that. And we’ll get there in the next two blogs.
But what I want to focus on is how Paul prays.
Pray for Others
Paul prayed for others. A lot. Like most of the time. I’m not doubting that Paul ever prayed for his own wants and needs, but he sure doesn’t talk about it nearly as much as he talks about praying for others. Most of the time I suck at prayer because I’m just repeating my same ol’ wants again and again and again. That gets boring, not gonna lie. And I run out of things to pray about seven minutes in.
I’m always absolutely amazed by those who are constantly in prayer for others. There are a few people in our community here in Vernon who have wowed me with their ability to do this. Tammy Chapman. Ronnie Gibbs. Jimmie Parmer. Dr. Darrell Monday (I may have spelled his name wrong).
These are just a few people who have put this on my heart. They regularly follow-up with those they’re praying for. They’re always encouraging.
Paul didn’t cease to pray for others.
Neither should we.
Pray Christian Prayers
What about the content of our prayers though?
A whole lot of the time, we pray for things that non-Christians could pray too. We pray for health, recovery, blessings.
But do we pray for spiritual things for our friends, families, fellow Christians?
Look at what Paul prayed for in that passage above! He prayed that they would gain wisdom and knowledge of God!
That’s a prayer that is distinctly Christian.
Pray for the growth of the fruit of the Spirit in others. Pray for spiritual disciplines. Pray for a deeper understanding of Jesus! Pray for the Spirit’s power! Pray for Christian things.
Pray the Bible
This has served to help me sooooooooo much in prayer. Instead of praying lists, pray the Bible. Pray passages. This is actually extremely easy. Paul prayed that the church in Ephesus would gain knowledge of God. We have the complete revelation of God in the Bible. So pick a passage and pray.
The Psalms is the easiest place to do this. I read a verse and then pray all that comes to mind in light of that verse, and then I move on. Passages like Ephesians 1 are super easy because you can literally just pray the prayers of Paul.
Use the Bible!
These last two don’t flow out of Ephesians 1. But they do flow out of the story of Scripture. Jesus prayed alone frequently and unashamedly.
I’ve realized that this is important for me. I will get anxious, angry, afraid, and my wife will encourage me to go to my closet. I sit on top of the seven feet of dirty clothes, close the door, and pray with God. And man it works wonders. I don’t magically open the door to a changed circumstance. But I 99% of the time open the door to a changed perspective.
Get alone with God.
But don’t forsake praying with others! I am bad at praying with my wife every night, but when I do it does wonders.
One of my closest friends lives in Phoenix and he recently (months ago) called me and we didn’t say a word except to pray out loud together, via Scripture, for over thirty minutes. I’ve never felt so strengthened in my faith.
And y’all, church doesn’t count. Too often prayer is used at church as guardrails for the start and end of activities, or for delays between moments when stuff is happening on stage.
Call up a friend.
I’m a dummy when it comes to prayer.
But you don’t have to be.
In His Name,