Perhaps one of the biggest spiritual struggles people encounter is how to pray.
I’ve talked to many people over the years who say, “I don’t know how to pray.” They can recite the Lord’s Prayer or a scripted prayer that they memorized as a kid, e.g., “Now I lay me down to sleep…” But they struggle with this important spiritual discipline because they fear that they don’t know the “right” words.
There is no required lingo necessary to pray. You don’t need to know King James English. You don’t have to follow proper prayer protocol.
You just talk to God like you’re talking to your best friend.
“But what do I talk about?”
Let me give you some pointers. Prayer is so much more than just reciting a wish list to God. Sometimes we treat God like a spiritual Santa Claus, we name all of the things that we want him to do for us and consider that prayer. In reality, that should only be a small part of your prayer life.
Here are 12 different ways to pray that will enhance your prayer life like never before.
1. Praise – Begin by praising God for his greatness, his creation, his love, and his other incredible attributes. Praise is not the same as thanks. (More on thanks later.) Praise is focused on God – who he is, what he has done, and what he is doing. If you need help, read through some chapters of Psalms.
2. Wait – This step is a little harder. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” After reflecting on God through praise, it’s natural to bask in his presence. Allow this to be a time of quiet focus on God’s vastness. This is a time to silently surrender everything to him.
3. Confession – This is a time of “clearing the air” with God. Have you ever sat down with a loved one to have a serious discussion and felt the need to get everything out in the open so that there’s no hidden agenda and nothing to tarnish your conversation? This is your time with God to do that.
Realize that God is holy and we are sinful. Confess your sins to him. You don’t have to explain, excuse, or justify them – just confess. It’s good for your soul.
4. Scripture Prayer – You don’t have to come up with your own original words. You can use the Bible to pray. There are scores of prayers already recorded for you. Take a portion of a Psalm, pray the Beatitudes, or read over a prayer that someone else in the Bible prayed. Insert your name and make it personal.
Feel terrible because of something awful you did? So did David when he had an affair with Bathsheba and subsequently had her husband killed. That’s when he wrote Psalm 51. Read it aloud to God.
5. Watching – What’s going on around the world? What is God doing? What situations or circumstances need your prayer support? For example, as I write this the U.S. Embassy in Libya was recently attacked. I know some people who are going there soon to serve in that same city. This is my time to pray for them. Use the news as a prayer guide.
6. Intercession – To intercede means “to mediate.” Be the go-between for your family, friends, and co-workers. Pray for those around you. Pray for their specific needs – whether physical, emotional, or spiritual.
7. Petition – You already know this step. This is when you break out your own personal needs list. Here’s your chance to talk to God about the things that are close to your heart.
8. Thanksgiving – Spend a few minutes expressing your gratitude to God for his blessings in your life.
9. Singing/Worship – If you like to sing, sing a song of worship to God. If you’re uncomfortable with that, play a song(s) and hum along or just focus on the lyrics. Psalm 100:2 says, “Come before Him with singing.”
10. Meditation – Meditation is not emptying your mind of things. The word “meditate” in Hebrew means to “chew on something, to ponder, or to focus.” It is the same word used to describe a cow chewing his cud. Meditate on a spiritual theme or topic. Use a good concordance to see what the Bible says about a certain matter then examine how that topic is being applied to your life.
11. Listen – Like waiting, listening is a challenge because we are not used to quiet. Listen to what God is saying to you about your life. What has been brought to mind as you prayed through the first 10 types of prayer? Did you learn anything while you were praying or reading? Did the music serve to remind you of something God has done or is doing in your life? Have you heard from a godly person lately? What can you learn from your encounters with others who make God a priority?
12. Praise – End your prayer time with praise. Begin and end focusing on God’s amazing attributes.
One final thought: Jesus asked his disciples the night before his crucifixion, “Could you not pray for an hour?” They could not. Many people struggle to pray for just a few minutes. We are not commanded to pray for a certain amount of time. God doesn’t give us points for the length of our prayers. However, I can assure you that a deeper, longer prayer life will enhance your spiritual life immensely.
If you follow these 12 types of prayer for 5 minutes each, it will take an hour. Intimidating? Don’t sweat it. It shouldn’t. Maybe start with a minute each – that’s 12 minutes. When is the last time you prayed for 12 minutes?
“Prayer does not prepare us for greater works. Prayer is the greater work.” – Oswald Chambers
(The 12 types of prayer were adapted from The Hour That Changes the World by Dick Eastman. One of the most practical books on prayer I’ve read.)
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