“For me, it is absolutely essential that my prayers be guided by, saturated by, and sustained and controlled by the word of God – John Piper”1
Christians come to God in prayer knowing that he listens, answers, and talks to us. God is our father and we are his children, and we approach him in prayer. Prayer is an essential part of Christian life, and yet many of us sometimes struggle with it. Sometimes, we labour in our prayer life not knowing whether we are praying rightly or not. And at other times our prayers are monotonous and repetitive and many times we don’t know what to pray or how to pray.
Thankfully, God has not left us without help in this crucial area of our lives. Scripture provides us with several principles and examples of how we can pray. As someone who is struggling and seeking to grow in this area, here are a few principles which I have found useful in my prayer life.
Open the Bible, start reading it, and pause at every verse and turn it into a prayer.
1. Pray Biblically If we paid close attention to the words that we pray, many of us would find that we have a set praying pattern which becomes repetitive and may lack content. When we pray we need to pay attention to the content of our prayer. A helpful way to improve the content of our prayer is by using the Bible. When praying we can use the scripture passage which we are meditating on and pray according to it. Many have found especially the Psalms as being very helpful prayers for the Christian to emulate in different seasons of life.
A helpful suggestion from John Piper is to “Open the Bible, start reading it, and pause at every verse and turn it into a prayer.”2 By doing this our prayer will be based on scripture and we can avoid prayers which are repetitive and shallow. This would enhance our prayer life and help us to enjoy praying.
2. Pray RegularlyAs we pray Biblically, often many of us find ourselves busy whether we are in the professional world or in Christian ministry. We often find it difficult to create time to regularly pray. Prayer is probably the first thing which gets affected because of our busy schedules.
It is necessary for us to have a regular time of prayer where we come to God, because it helps us to focus on God instead of our problems, people, and situations. This is not legalism as many people would like to think but this is a fruitful spiritual discipline for every believer. We know that prayer time has immense benefits for us, and we see people like Daniel and even Jesus setting aside time for prayer. So as Christians, we would benefit immensely by proactively setting aside time every day to spend time in prayer.
One of the ways we can do this is to begin our day or end our day with a time of prayer. We can start with 5 to 10 min, and gradually increase the time. As we continue to pray every day it will help us to grow in our dependence on the Lord.
3. Pray SystematicallyAs we make time to pray every day, the struggle for some of us would be who do we pray for or we find ourselves praying for a particular set of people repeatedly. It is good that we are praying for people or ministries during our prayer time. But it would be beneficial if we could pray systematically as it would help us to cover many areas, ministries and people in our prayer.
One simple way to pray systematically is to take the church directory (if your church has one) and pray for the families in it. We can pray sometimes for churches or ministries in our city or country. We can also pray using a map for cities or states or countries. A helpful resource for praying for unreached people groups and evangelism is the Joshua Project website.
4. Pray Intelligently As we pray systematically, sometimes even though we pray for people, we might pray very general prayers. We may not know about the situation of the person we are praying for. Although it would be meaningful to pray based on the Scripture, it would also be good to pray for specific needs that a person may have (both spiritual and physical).
The answers that God gives may not be according to what we expect or in the time we expect but God would definitely answer according to His goodwill.
As we have taken time to pray, we can also take time to prepare for praying or base our prayer on the facts about the situation if possible. We can do this simply by calling the person beforehand and getting to know how they are doing and asking them what specifically they can be prayed for. If we are praying for any known ministry we can do a similar thing. If it is about a people group or an area then we can look up for information on the internet about them and our prayer would be more knowledgeable.
In this manner, our prayer time would become meaningful and we would be able to encourage people by informing them that they were prayed for.
One thing that we can be sure of is that God is faithful and he will fulfil what he has promised and when we can pray according to his will trusting Him because of the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. The answers that God gives may not be according to what we expect or in the time we expect but God would definitely answer according to His goodwill. So we can be confident and pray earnestly to God knowing that he is good and just God.
5. Pray Earnestly As we pray intelligently, we can pray for things without actually meaning them or doubting whether God would listen or answer those prayers. This can happen to any of us because we are probably not focussed or not trusting God or may not be sure about the thing which we are praying for.
I pray that God would help each of us, especially those of us who are struggling, to grow in our prayer life. I pray that we would be encouraged and helped to pray biblically, regularly, systematically, knowingly and earnestly. Praise God that we can do this because we have access to God because of the finished work of Jesus on the Cross and his continuing work as our mediator! Let us continue to live praying and depending on God as we look forward to the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1. 55, Whitney, Donald S. Praying the Bible. Crossway, 2015.2. 33, Whitney, Donald S. Praying the Bible. Crossway, 2015.
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