“I know I should pray more, but man it is torture!!” The idea of kneeling down for hours on end, having a one-sided conversation with some supreme being, is not an enticing way to spend your time, I get it. But the thing is, there is so much more to prayer than you realize!
Prayer is approached by a million different people, in a million different ways. So many think they know what its purpose is, but I promise you, not everyone is correct. Prayer does not exist so that we can approach God like a fast-food drive-thru, sending Him our requests and expecting quick results. God is not a genie in a lamp, waiting around just to grant our three wishes. This is a dangerous mindset. We can get discouraged easily when we view prayer in this way. We can become bitter and angry toward God for not giving us what we want.
There is no right method to approaching prayer, just a right heart. We can truly begin to understand the joy to be found in God’s gift of prayer once our hearts are in the right place.
How Can I Find the Right Heart So That I Can Experience This Joy You’re Talking About?
Prayer can be a beautiful thing, if you let it. Unfortunately, it has been distorted by today’s culture into something unrecognizable from God’s true intention.
Understanding the True Purpose of Prayer
In her book, Fervent, Priscilla Shirer has this to say about God’s purpose for prayer:
I’m willing to admit, right up front, there’s an undeniable, unknowable, invisible mystery to prayer. That’s why our first reaction to it often leans toward dismissing it, downplaying it, devaluing its critical importance. Prayer, we think, is a good idea in theory, if only it actually did anything or made a difference. But here’s the deal. Despite what we may or may not understand about prayer, God has deliberately chosen this particular vehicle as the one that drives His activity in people’s lives. It’s what He allows us to use to cooperate and partner with Him in the fulfilling of His will. He’s created prayer as a primary way of putting us into personal contact with Him and with His eternal realities, any hour of the day or night.
To fully grasp this concept, you must first understand the purpose for which God created mankind. His desire was, and has always been, relationship with us. From the moment He walked in the Garden of Eden with Adam, to the sending of His Holy Spirit to dwell within us, God’s desire has been to be in intimate relationship with His people.
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. Revelation 3:20
In order to have relationship with someone, we need to be able to communicate with them. Prayer is God’s gift to us so that we can carry our side of the conversation. For His side, He uses many different avenues, His printed word being the greatest, and most common, of them. It’s easy to grow upset, claiming that you don’t hear God speak, but the truth is, He already has. Since He is omniscient (meaning He knows all things – past, present, and future), He was thinking of His response to you specifically when He breathed life into the scriptures so many centuries and millennia ago.
How to Build Relationship with the King of Kings
If the purpose of prayer is relationship with God, how do I develop that? The good news is that you develop relationship with God the same way you would develop it with anyone else! But here are a few points that could help expedite the process:
Our God is not just a king; He is the King of Kings. He is not just a lord; He is the Lord of Lords. He is the Creator of our universe, the Almighty Prince of Peace, the Beginning and the End. He is all of these things, and yet He chooses to have relationship personally with you. He has the ability to cast you into the depths of hell, and yet He chooses to mercifully forgive your sins when asked. Wouldn’t you think that approaching that kind of power would require a bit of recognition as to who is in charge?
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14
In order to build a relationship with anyone, we need to have more than one conversation per month or year with that person. It is the same with God. He desires daily, all day long, conversations with us. If we’ve invited the Holy Spirit to dwell within us, He’s with us all the time anyway. We might as well talk to Him.
And 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. Ephesians 6:18
Our Father desires true intimacy in our relationships with Him. He doesn’t want to be the type of God, who sits on a hill looking down on His subjects. He would love for you to get to know Him. And how do you do that? You spend time with Him. You read His word.
Come near to God and he will come near to you. James 4:8a
There are many ways to do this. Sites like The Daily Grace Co., She Reads Truth, and the YouVersion Bible App have fantastic devotionals available (both free and not). My Prayer and Study Journals also offer pages that can help facilitate your personal study as well. Find what works for you and begin a new chapter of actively drawing closer to Him.
The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. Psalm 145:18
Jesus gave us the greatest example of this over and over again while He walked on earth. He didn’t need to talk to God, He was God! And yet, He chose to remain intimate with His Father. He repeatedly removed Himself from the others to talk with God privately.
Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray and spent the night praying to God. Luke 6:12
This one is a big one. Most of us (myself included), when we pray, we do so with the intention of asking for something. This is not always a bad thing, but this is where the condition of our hearts comes in to play. What is your motivation? Is it to ask for something you want? Does that something line up with what God wants?
When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. James 4:3
We may not always know what God wants, but sometimes we do. Does your desire line up with scripture? What if scripture isn’t clear? We need to be ready to accept (and this is again where that humility comes in) that He might have a different idea in mind. That He might know more than we do…being that He is omniscient and all.
This is hard for some of us control freaks.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9
Learning to recognize that God’s plans might be better than mine has been a hard road for me. Trusting Him in that, has been even harder. I like to see myself as an extremely capable woman, whose approach to life is one of logic and reason. But there have been many things that I have had to give up to Him, not understanding the outcome. But God sees the bigger picture. He knows how one thing will affect another.
Trusting in His goodness is one of the biggest things that people struggle with. When we pray against some evil or sadness in this world, and our prayer isn’t answered the way we would like, it’s hard to see the sense in it. Bad things happen because sin entered the world, not because God doesn’t care. He doesn’t promise to stop all bad things from happening, but He does promise to use all things for His glory, and for the good of those who love Him.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
It’s a scary thing to trust in God. What if He asks you to do something you don’t want to do? What if He leads you down a path that wasn’t in your plan? Or if denies a request that you sent to Him timidly?
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
If God has given you clear direction that’s confirmed by His written Word and by the sounding board of wise, godly counsel – and your only real reason for resisting Him is because you’re afraid of what following Him down this path might mean or cost or entail, then you’re not only on the threshold of being disobedient, you’re about to miss an opportunity to give God some fresh, new glory by doing what He’s wanting to do through you, which is the true impetus behind His invitation for you to join Him on this scary adventure in the first place.Priscilla Shirer, Fervent
How to Pray to the King of Kings
When talking with God, there are so many methods that can be used. Of course, the most important is to stay in constant conversation with Him throughout the day. But it’s also good habit to dedicate special, uninterrupted time to sit in His presence as often as possible. These are the times where we can really connect and grow that intimacy with Him.
Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. James 5:13
These are a few ways that others approach this kind of prayer:
The idea behind this is to organize your thoughts in a way that sets your heart right before God
Adoration – This is your time to praise your Father in Heaven, which creates a humble heart in preparation for the next step
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him. Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness. 1 Chronicles 16:29
Confession – Lay out your sins before your King. Hand them over and willingly turn from them.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
Thanksgiving – Thank Him for forgiving your sins, and for all He’s done for you.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever. Psalm 136:1
Supplication – Finally, after we’ve prepared our hearts in humility, we can ask for those things that align with His will.
Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 1 Timothy 2:1-2
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you Matthew 5:44
“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41
With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. 2 Thessalonians 1:11
This can be done in a few different ways. I have used blank journals to write out my prayers to God (I do my best thinking and processing in this way). Not Consumed has a fantastic prayer journal (which is my current weapon of choice), which allows you to organize your prayers into categories to better keep track of them. My downloadable Prayer and Study Journals offer the best of both options, giving you the freedom to mix and match. No matter what you do, the important thing is to find what works best for you and your situation.
If you’ve seen the movie, War Room (if you haven’t seen it, please do, it will change your life), you already know what a prayer closet is. This is a dedicated space in your home, typically an emptied closet or spare room, that is set up for your uninterrupted time with the Lord. This is the place that you go to in order to battle on your knees against the evil powers at work around you. You don’t need much, but a place to sit (the floor works fine) and a door to shut out distraction. Some prefer to post scriptures and prayer lists on the walls, but really, you make it what you need it to be. Visit this board on Pinterest for inspiration if you’re interested this going route.
Pray the Scripture
This is something that I have never actually attempted, but I know many that do, and it seems to me to be a beautiful thing.
I call to you, Lord, come quickly to me. hear me when I call to you. May my prayer be set before you like incense. may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice. Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. Psalm 141:1-3
The Prayer Journal from Not Consumed teaches this process well. The example used in its Supplication section is this:
I have not stopped giving thanks for you/my friend Amy, remembering you/her in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you/her the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you/she may know him better, especially as she struggles to know what to do about her son. Ephesians 1:16-17
The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to do it “right.” There is no method that is greater than another. God hears you no matter how you talk to Him, or no matter what words you use. He doesn’t need you to figure life out first, and there is no pressure to “get it right” first.
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Matthew 6:5-8
What about those times when there are no words? Please rest in knowing that if you’ve invited the Holy Spirit to dwell within you, He already knows your heart.
…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. Romans 8:26
How to Experience the Blessings of Prayer
Blessings in Answered Prayer
When we seek Him regularly, in humility and in submission to His will, we will begin to see the blessings of our answered prayers. I’m warning you though, most of the major answers that I’ve received have been years after the prayer was first muttered.
One way that I’ve experienced this has been through my prayer journals. When we write it down, we have something beautiful to refer back to down the road. One of my favorite memories was when I was just browsing through an old journal that I had finished a few years before. I came across an entry that I had written in regard to my sister and all that she had going on at that time. When I read all that I had prayed, I realized that every single request that was detailed had been answered, in its own time, to the letter that I had penned it. Through my tears, I was able to snap a picture of it and forward it to her, in turn bringing her to tears as well.
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. 1 John 5:14-15
I have had multiple occasions in which God has heard my plea and has given me the desires of my heart. Of course, He has no problem indulging me the closer I grow to Him and the more those desires are aligned with His. There have also been plenty of times that I have asked things of Him that do not align with who He is. Those are the times that I get a big, fat “NO.” But that is okay, because if He is saying no, then He has a reason for it. And that reason is usually for my benefit or spiritual health, or for the benefit or spiritual health of those involved.
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4
Blessings in Our Spiritual and Mental Health
When we take the time each day to make our conversations with Him a priority, we will become grounded in who He is. Our priorities will change, and our perspective will become healthier than it’s ever been.
Life will never stop being hard. I know that. And, yes, being our best and giving full effort is important in every area of our lives. But we have not been put here to be slaves to schedules that eat up every inch of margin from our families, our friendships, our worship, and our calling, nor to let others decide every day what our plans and priorities are supposed to be. We’re not a “bondwoman” but a “free woman” (Gal. 4:31).
And it’s time we started living (and praying) like one.
When we become strategic and focused in our prayer, God will not only begin the process of tearing us free, but He will weave new threads of peace, rest, and contentment into their place.Priscilla Shirer, Fervent
Blessings in Relationship with Him
There is so much joy to be found in prayer. He is sitting by your side, waiting to hear from you, so that He can begin sharing Himself with you in a more intimate way.
He is the ultimate joy to be found. There is nothing that surpasses Him.
Start talking to Him today.