Prayer is an essential element of our spiritual life, we can all agree on that. But is there a right or wrong way to do it? Will a special formula send our prayers straight to the top of God’s list? In order to learn how to pray more effectively, I think it’s important to take a look at some things the Bible says are NOT required:
1. It doesn’t have to be fancy or formal.
God is absolutely holy, worthy of reverence and worship. He also sent Jesus to become our mediator and encourages us to approach Him in bold confidence. We have full access to the very presence of God and are invited to draw near to Him. Why do we feel like we have to speak in old English or use lots of big words when we pray? God isn’t impressed by that! With a reverent and humble heart, you can talk to God as a loving Father who delights in hearing from you, in your own words. Have a conversation as if He were sitting right there with you, eagerly listening to what you have to say (because He is)!
2. It doesn’t have to be at church or the dinner table.
In case you didn’t know this, you can (and should) pray anywhere. You can pray while sitting, standing, lying in bed or driving your car…you get the idea! God wants to hear from you anytime you have something to say to Him. Jesus often withdrew to quiet places to commune with the Father in prayer; perhaps a change of scenery is what you need to boost your prayer life. Go for a prayer walk at your local park; find a quiet spot and settle in with a journal and a pen. Get in the habit of praying often, wherever you happen to be when you feel the need. Check in with God throughout the day and let Him know what’s on your mind!
3. It doesn’t have to be silent.
Many people are uncomfortable or afraid of praying out loud, thinking they may break some unwritten rule or say something wrong. It might feel weird at first, but praying out loud can help us focus in on exactly what we’re saying and make it feel more like a conversation. Jesus did it all the time, so why shouldn't we? My mind tends to wander in extended times of silent prayer, but audibly speaking the words can keep me on track. Try praying aloud, even if it’s awkward at first. Practice until it’s not anymore! Pray with others in person when you have opportunities - most people will welcome the offer and there is spiritual power in speaking words of life over a hurting heart.
4. It doesn’t have to be long and drawn out.
Jesus warned against people who ramble in prayer just to be seen by others. In Matthew 5 He says, “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.” He goes on to give us an example of how to pray, and it is surprisingly short, sweet, and to the point. Jesus wanted us to understand that when we are in close relationship with the Father, we trust His heart and believe that He knows exactly what we need before we even ask! Prayer that flows from this place is more about a heart connection than the words we say. It’s about acknowledging God for who He is and posturing ourselves to receive the good gifts He gives.
What’s more, the Bible says when we don’t have the right words to say, the Holy Spirit helps us and prays for us with groanings that are deeper than words can express (Romans 8:26). Isn’t it encouraging to know the Spirit is directly communicating to God on your behalf, conveying what’s really in your heart in a language beyond our earthly limitations?
Pray often, pray honestly, and keep exercising your prayer "muscles" until it's your first response to whatever life brings your way. Don’t be afraid to lean into your own prayer life and try a new approach. With practice you will develop a strong, vibrant faith that your prayers are being heard and will be answered by the God who loves you with an incredible passion!