Wouldn’t it be great if we could just pick up the phone and talk to God? In a sense, we can. We can talk to Him through prayer.
Prayer is something that we all need to be doing. It’s a privilege and an adventure. And the Bible says that we should “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 NKJV).
Yet many of us are reluctant to pray. We don’t really know how to pray, and we’re embarrassed about praying. Some people don’t pray because they feel their lives aren’t right with God (and maybe they’re not).
However, we should never be reluctant to pray.
The Wrong Things to Focus on
In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul said, “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere” (Ephesians 6:18 NLT).
Paul tells us important things about prayer in this verse, yet he doesn’t address some of the things that we tend to focus on. Far too often we major on the minors in prayer. We become preoccupied with things that aren’t significant.
For instance, people can become overly focused on the posture of prayer. They think it’s always best to pray on your knees and that it’s really inappropriate to pray sitting down or with your eyes open.
Yet, in the Bible, we find examples of people who prayed standing, lifting their hands, sitting, lying, kneeling, lifting their eyes, bowing, and pounding their chests. So, any posture will do—because what God is interested in is the posture of our hearts.
Others are concerned about the best place to pray. They think that God will hear a prayer in a church more than in any other place. Of course, I’m not denying that God will hear prayer in a church. At the same time, there are examples in the Bible of people praying in other places. They prayed during battle, in the street, on a mountainside, by a river, in a cave, in a closet, in a prison, in the sea, and even in the belly of a great fish.
Then there’s the question of the best time to pray. Should we pray in the morning, afternoon, or at night? Should we pray three times a day or four?
In the Bible, people prayed at all times. We find people praying in the morning, the mid-morning, and the evening. We find them praying three times a day, before meals, after meals, at bedtime, and at midnight.
The point is that we should pray when we’re young, when we’re old, when we’re in trouble, and when things are going well. We should pray in any posture, in any place, at any time, and under all circumstances.
How to Pray
Jesus gave us a model for prayer in what we call The Lord’s Prayer. His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1 NKJV). Notice they didn’t say, “Lord, teach us a prayer.”
We sometimes think of The Lord’s Prayer as the mega prayer, the one to use when we’re really in trouble. Now, there’s nothing wrong with praying it verbatim. But it’s more than just a prayer; it’s a model for prayer. It’s a blueprint to follow.
However, there will be situations when there isn’t time to follow this model. In an emergency, a simple, “Help!” will do.
But when you take time to pray, consider the acrostic ACTS. Each letter stands for a specific aspect of prayer, arranged in a natural order: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication.
We start with adoration. It’s what Jesus taught: “‘When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. . .'” (Luke 11:2 NKJV). He is our Father in Heaven, not our butler in Heaven, servant in Heaven, or vending machine in Heaven. We are speaking to Almighty God, the creator of the universe. This puts things in perspective.
That brings us to confession. The closer we draw to God, the more we’ll sense our own sinfulness. We see this illustrated in the Old Testament book of Isaiah, where Isaiah said, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple” (Isaiah 6:1 NKJV).
In response to what he saw, Isaiah said, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (verse 5 NKJV). He saw God for who He was. And in the presence of God, he became aware of his shortcomings.
Our immediate response after confession is thanksgiving. We are thankful for what God has done for us, that He has cleansed and forgiven us. As David said, “Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight!” (Psalm 32:1 NLT).
The Bible says, “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever!” (Psalm 107:1 NKJV). We should give thanks when we feel like it and when we don’t feel like it, because He is worthy of our praise.
Supplication, bringing our personal petitions before God, is last. As we spend time in adoration, confession, and thanksgiving, our requests may change. As we see God for who He is, as we think about Him, we will begin to reexamine things, because we’re aligning ourselves with His will. That is the goal of effective prayer. If we want to see our prayers answered more often in the affirmative, then we need to learn to pray according to the will of God.
The Bible tells us, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6–7 NLT).
This is God’s antidote to worry. Nothing is too big to pray about. And nothing is too small. Bring it to God.
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Originally published at WND.com