How to Pray
One of the most persistent “problems” confronted by Christians in God’s church is how to pray the proper form of prayer, or to establish communication with God. Real prayer is spontaneous, or from the heart, and not mechanical, or contrived. Prayer is the most important activity during the day, and is indispensable in promoting positive results in one’s Christian life.
What does the Bible mean when it says “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)? Is it possible to pray continuously all throughout one’s waking hours, and even while sleeping? The main excuse Catholics have for praying by rote is the inability to find the right words often when attempting to pray. Or not knowing what to say to God in our daily prayers. But the Bible says when we pray “use not vain repetitions as the heathen do for they think they shall be heard for their much speaking” (Matthew 5:7). Rote prayers or meaningless chants should not be used as a substitute for active communication, or conversation with God, because it denigrates prayer to a senseless, meaningless, and laborious or tedious routine. We should pray because we want to talk to our Father, our Creator, and not just because we are forced to do so. Christian obligation presupposes the desire or willingness to perform our main duty or task because we enjoy doing so, and not just to fulfill a requirement. Also, rote prayers dedicated to some personage other than the true God, the Father who created all things, is idolatrous and vain.
It is difficult to establish communication with God if we haven’t prayed for a long time, and more so if we have never prayed at all. And most especially if we have been praying but not to the real or true God. But prayer, just like everything else we do, is a habit which should be integral to our daily existence, and if one has neglected it for quite awhile the habit can be reestablished. For beginners, real or true prayer is something one can learn. Even atheists and/or agnostics know how to pray during times of desperation.
Actually, we can communicate with God about everything and anything that concerns us. But we must do so with deep respect and reverence. God is, after all, the author of human life, and He wants us to talk to Him. It is not even necessary to follow a specific outline or guideline in praying; the latter is merely an aid so we will be able to pray effectively.
When we listen to theologians who discuss prayer, their explanation is sometimes too abstruse to understand, using profound words that don’t really mean anything. They mean well, but can they effectively explain what prayer is about? Listen to the following, for example: “Prayer is not worship. It is the instrument of the life of worship” (Oswald Chambers). If prayer is not worship, then what is it? When the Bible says we must pray continually, or without ceasing, it means prayer is not merely a tool underlying proper worship of God, but is actually what Christian life consists of. Real prayer is not just an incidental activity, but the main ingredient of Christian life.
For prayer to become effective and fervent, it requires the following prerequisites: first, faith; second, importunity; third the inspiration, influence, and guidance of the Holy Spirit; third, praise and thanksgiving; fourth, the element of forgiveness; and most important of all, obedience. Praying without ceasing presupposes an attitude of worship and adoration to God throughout the day, in all our undertakings, aside from setting a specific time each day we can devote to God alone.
When we understand the meaning of praying without ceasing, we find out how difficult it is to implement one hundred percent because our thoughts, words, and actions are not immune to wrong attitudes and influences of the world we live in, the inherent tendencies of human nature. For which reason, prayer, most especially fervent prayer, requires continuous study and practice.
When it comes to quiet time or devotion to God, it requires a specific location each day where one has privacy. And it presupposes one prays at length, and not just for brief intervals. However, during instances wherein one does not have such kind of privacy, and even the freedom to pray verbally or out loud, one can simply pray in one’s thoughts. Dedicating everything we do to God, all throughout the day and even the dreams we have when asleep, and our subconscious thoughts and desires, is to pray even without ceasing.
One must pray over everything that concerns us—spiritual, psychological, physical, intellectual, and material needs. Not only for ourselves but also for others, for we must learn to love others as much as we love ourselves. Also, through prayer, we learn to love God above all things, even ourselves. Only Jesus Christ was capable of
praying without an element of narcissism, though, because it is really impossible to overcome self-righteousness absolutely. Our spiritual needs, therefore, should constitute the majority of our prayers, because it is the quintessential consideration.
When we pray, we praise and thank God for being the Creator of all things, the whole universe, including the spirit realm, and most especially human beings in His image and likeness, for we are the pinnacle of His creation. We pray for the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth, for the end of Satan’s society, for all human beings to learn about God’s truth and change their ways. We pray for the work of the church, the preaching and teaching of the gospel, and for the resources necessary to be utilized in this great endeavor. We pray for everybody within and outside our sphere of influence, most especially for the brethren of God’s church and the people outside the church who are close to us, like our relatives and peers. We pray especially that we can learn to be a good example unto others, so as not to shame the church and the spiritual gifts God has granted us. We must pray also for all our daily needs, healing of every facet of our personhood. We pray God will continue to bless us according to our needs and those of others we come in contact with, not just materially, but in every respect. Most especially we have to be thankful even when the answers to our major prayers is no, or that we must wait a long time for our prayers to be answered. And we must not compare ourselves to others who seems to be blessed by God more than what He has blessed us with.
Finally, the most important consideration when we pray is the fact that there is only one mediator, Jesus Christ the Son, the personal expression and representation of God, Who is also God.
Matthew 6:7 (ESV): “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.”
Matthew 6:8-9 (ESV): “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him, 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.”
Colossians 4:2 (ESV): “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being thankful in it with thanksgiving.”
1 Thessalonians 5:17 (ESV): “Pray without ceasing.”
Romans 12:12 (ESV): “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
2 Timothy 1:3 (ESV): “I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.”
Philippians 4:6 (ESV): “Do not be anxious about anything, but everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
1 Peter 4:7 (ESV): “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.”
Matthew 6:6 (ESV): “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Matthew 7:7 (ESV): “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
Matthew 21:22 (ESV): “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”
Mark 11:24 (ESV): “Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be done.”
John 15:7 (ESV): “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
Hebrews 11:6 (ESV): “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists, and that He rewards those who seek Him.”
1 John 5:14-15 (ESV): “And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him.”
Luke 11:11-13 (ESV): “What Father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”
James 1:5-7 (ESV): “If any of you lacks wisdom, let Him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord.”
Proverbs 15:8 (ESV): “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to Him.”
Isaiah 66:2 (ESV): “All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and continue in spirit and trembles at my word.”
Proverbs 28:9 (ESV): “If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.”
James 2:17 (ESV): “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
Luke 9:23 (ESV): “And he said to all, “if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
Matthew 21:22 (ESV): “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”
Revelation 4:2-6 (ESV)—the Third Heaven
(Other important scriptural references: Matthew 6:6; 14:23; Mark 6:45-46; Luke 5:16; 6:12; John 14:13-14; 1 Timothy 2:8; James 5:17; 1 Peter 3:12; 2 Chronicles 7:14; Psalm 34:15-17; 66:17-19; 91:15; 143:18)