Do you know how to pray?
Are you making progress in your prayer life?
Do you find your prayers have become repetitive, dry, or boring?
I find I need help to learn how to pray. Do you?
Martin Luther’s barber once asked for advice on developing his prayer life. So Luther wrote him a letter explaining a simple way to pray (you can read it here or here). Taking my cue from Luther, here are five elements of my own version of a simple way to pray.
First, read a Biblical prayer out loud. The Psalms are the Bible’s prayerbook. The Lord’s Prayer is our model prayer. If you want to learn what a spiritually mature prayer looks like, or if you want to grow in your faith, read those. Faith comes from hearing the Word of God (Rom 10:17) and it doesn’t matter if you’re hearing the Word from your own mouth, so read it out loud.
Second, learn from it. As you read it, ask God to show you what He wants to teach you in each section of the prayer. If you pray, “Thy kingdom come” (Matt 6:10), what does that mean? What kingdom? When is it coming? What is it like? Ask God to teach you. And be proactive. Search out Bible teachers who can explain the Psalm or prayer to you.
Third, give thanks to God. For each truth revealed in the prayer or Psalm, especially if it relates to God’s character, give thanks. If you read, “The works of the Lord are great, studied by all who have pleasure in them” (Ps 111:2), then praise Him for all His works. Give thanks for creation, for life, and for loving relationships. Let the prayer inspire your spontaneous praise.
Fourth, confess your sins. When you pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10), you cannot help but think of all the times you failed to do God’s will. So confess your sins as you pray. He is faithful and just to forgive you and to cleanse you of them (1 John 1:7-9).
Fifth, improvise. As you read a prayer, let it inspire you to personalize the prayer in your own words. As you pray out loud, “Lead us not into temptation…” (Matt 6:13), you might think of a particular temptation or trial you or someone you love is going through. Pray about that temptation. Let words or verses of the Psalm inspire your own prayer to God.
If I were to add a sixth element it would be this: pray often. Talk to your Father about anything and everything. The more you practice, the easier the prayer will come.
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