Every Christian that I’ve ever asked has told me of their desire to have a quality prayer life. And when asked what’s holding them back from their desire, the response that I most commonly hear is, “I’m not sure how”. What results is a shallow attempt at talking to God that seems more like a grocery store shopping list than an authentic, heart-felt conversation.
So when most Christians I’ve talked to read verses in the Bible such as Colossians 4:2 which says, “Devote yourselves to prayer…”, out of sheer habit or duty, a quick “God I pray for…” message is sent to God. I don’t believe this is all there is to prayer.
In fact I think most believers would love to have the devotion to prayer that Jesus had. Mark 1:35 reveals that Jesus loved to wake up very early in the morning so that he could be alone to pray. Such effort is not required for a quick, “Dear God, please bless so-and-so.”
I believe that many Christians would love to have the devotion to prayer that Daniel had. Daniel 6:10 shows us that even though Daniel was conflicted in his heart, “he went home to his upstairs room … Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed…” Such consistency is beyond the spontaneous, “I’ll pray for you” (and then forget to) prayer.
There’s no doubt in my mind that my fellow brothers and sister in the faith really long for the devotion to prayer that Moses experienced. After the Hebrew people melted an idol in the form of a golden calf for them to worship, God was ready to wipe out the people and start over with Moses. But in Exodus 32:11 Moses prayed for his people, and his prayer influenced God to change his mind. Such power exceeds the typical, “God’s will be done” tag at the end of our prayer.
What I think many in the Church are missing is deep, sincere, emotional conversations with our heavenly Father. Talks that tend to take time and that share what’s in the deepest reservoir of your being. This type of prayer is, in the words of Richard Foster, “life creating and life changing”.
“But I don’t know how!” many believers would respond. Early in his ministry Jesus’ disciples had the same problem. So Jesus taught them.
I have enjoyed rich conversations with my Father in heaven simply by allowing the Model Prayer that Jesus taught His disciples as my outline. Jesus gives us this model in Matthew 6:10-13 and used as an outline, it looks like this.
Worship & Praise — “Our Father in Heaven hallowed be your name.”
Spend some time exalting the name of God. Tell Him how awesome He is and how much He means to you.
Yield & Surrender — “your kingdom come, your will be done…”
After you’ve worshipped God through prayer, allow the image of who God is to reign over your life. If He is God, then you are not; so, turn your day, your problems, your agenda over to Him.
Requests — “Give us today our daily bread.”
Ask God for what you need. Jesus said it like this in Matthew 7:7-11, “Ask, and it will be given to you… Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?… If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!” Notice that prayer requests come AFTER your heart is right before God due to worship and surrender.
Forgiveness — “Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors…”
The Apostle John promises believers that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins…” (1 John 1:9). Even though God already knows our sins, it’s for us that we confess them to God.
Protection — “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil…”
God wants us to be holy. And while we will all face temptation to sin, the Apostle Paul promises in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” So as you pray, learn to ask God to help you look for the ways out when you’re tempted to sin.
Following this outline has helped me pray thoughtful, meaningful prayers when I would otherwise not know what to pray for. And I believe God is glad when we spend time in devoted prayer. Proverbs 15:8 says, “The prayer of the upright is his delight.” And so when I pray for myself, my family, friends, church, and the world, I believe it is possible to enjoy real conversation with my heavenly father.
With your Bible open, you can listen for God’s response when you pray. If you’re looking for an answer, try writing down your questions and I believe in time, God will reveal an answer for you in His word if you remain devoted. So if you feel as though your prayers lack substance, stop sending God little messages limited to just a few words, and try starting a conversation.