How Do I Pray?
Text: Matthew 6:5-13 | Listen to Message
Everyone knows that prayer is talking to God. But why? How? And about what?
Also, why is prayer so fraught with difficulties? On the one hand, our prayers tend to be fairly selfish and demanding: “God, do this not that. Give me this. Show me that. Bless me. Protect me. Help me. Answer me!” In many of these types of prayers, we’re not going to God for God, we’re just using him as a means to an end – he’s little more than the party responsible for giving us all the things we really want. He’s the rich friend who picks up the tab at the end of the night.
On the other hand, our prayers tend to lapse into despair when it seems like God doesn’t hear or answer us. And we tell ourselves those few good things probably would’ve happened anyway. So why bother with praying when prayer doesn’t seem to change anything? Why put our hearts out there to get hurt again, when it just leads to more cynicism and discouragement?
These are not theoretical or rhetorical questions. This is where many of us live. What’s wrong? What’s wrong with us? Other people’s prayers get answered, but not ours. Do we seriously just not know how to pray?
Maybe the thing that most needs to change is our perspective. Let me explain.
Many people – perhaps even most – use prayer to try to get or fix something. For example, you have a problem with your health, your finances, or a relationship, so you pray and ask God to fix what’s wrong. The unstated goal is to move from a position of weakness to a position of strength, from a position of poverty to a position of prosperity, from a position of dependence to a position of independence. To put it bluntly, we often use prayer to get ourselves to a place where we don’t need God! And we wonder why God isn’t granting our wishes!
This is why I say our perspective needs to change. What if it’s actually good to be needy and dependent? I mean, do you ever wonder why, when teaching us how to pray, Jesus told stories about people who were weak and needy? Maybe it’s because these are the people who are most likely to receive the intended outcome of prayer, which is intimacy with God himself!
I don’t think most of us need to learn how to pray as much was we need to learn – and relearn – the whole meaning and purpose of prayer in the first place.
Why do we pray? To seek intimacy, friendship, and communion with God. To magnify his glory by confessing our own constant need. And to find our happiness and satisfaction in him. We pray as a means of letting go and giving up control; we don’t pray as a subtle way to control God.
So as you learn what to pray for and how to pray, make it a priority to remember the why. The why is more important than the what or the how. See, when you recall the reasons for prayer, adoration, praise, and gratitude will flow naturally from your lips. Confessing your shortcomings, sins, and sorrows will be instinctive, because you know God’s mercy is drawn to humility. And you’ll also feel a new liberty with your requests – because you know the faithful, Fatherly love of the One to whom you’re praying.