How to pray: 3 different types of prayer
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I first became a Christian when I was five years old. I’ve prayed to God since then (and probably before, though any prior memories are foggy). I never prayed out loud though, not in front of people, not until a couple of years ago. Though I knew God heard and answered my silent prayers, and I often prayed along in my heart to the spoken prayers of others, I was self-conscious of what other people would think, and afraid I was “doing it wrong.” By the grace of God, that has changed. Through my participation in a small weekly meet-up of Christian women in my home, and our practice of praying for each other, out loud, I have learned to let go of any most self-consciousness- and I’ve learned that I’m not alone in these feelings about prayer.
I know I’m not the only one who has been afraid to pray out loud. I know that I’m not the only one who has wondered if even my silent prayers are all wrong…not spiritual enough. I caught myself, just last week, complimenting someone on a “good prayer” that they said out loud, because it was eloquent and thoughtful, the unspoken part being, that I didn’t think my own prayers measured up.
Here’s the thing…. eloquence of words, as a measure of a prayer’s worth, is not what God looks at. He looks at the heart. As a writer, I’m particularly appreciative of pretty words, but I must be careful to not let the words get in the way of what is most important when it comes to prayer. Prayer is simply a meeting with God.
Prayer is an absolutely necessary part of the Christian life. Coming to God with an attitude of humility, acknowledging that we need Him everyday, knowing that we cannot give that which we do not have, we learn, through prayer, that everything depends on prayer.
Jesus did give us an example of how to pray, in what is commonly known as the Lord’s Prayer, in Mathew 6:9-13 (ESV):
Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
I like to use the format of the Lord’s prayer as a reminder to: worship God, petition and ask for His will in the world, ask for daily needs, confess my sins, and ask for strength to avoid temptation.
I also find it useful think of three different types of prayer that I can offer:
1. Praying in Words- using our mind and our spoken words, being careful of Jesus’s warning not to pray like the pagans who ‘think they are heard because of their many words” (Mt 6:7)
2. Simple prayers of thought- focused on God, this kind of prayer can occur frequently, throughout our days (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). We can simplify our prayers even further and become completely silent.
3. Prayer of gesture- as simple as a smile directed toward God or showing empty hands (fill these hands with your grace).
The most essential element of prayer is not the “right words” but the desire itself, to enter into the presence of God, humbling yourself before Him and allowing the Holy Spirit to pray within you. God is a loving Father, and though our prayers may be simple, and not always eloquent, he accepts our prayers in the same manner that a good and loving parent accepts a gift from a child.
Prayer is powerful, not because of what we have to offer, but because it is offered to the One who is most powerful- and yet He loves to hear from us.
Linking up with Kelly and Friends at #RaRalinkup