“This, then, is how you should pray.” – Matthew 6:9a
It was a little over 18 years ago. I had been a pastor for only a month or two, and I remember saying to myself, “Dane, what were you thinking when you took this job?”
I didn’t say that because I wanted to jump ship. This church was great. But the reality had hit me: I was 25 years old, trying to teach God’s word to a group of people, most of whom were older than myself. And many of them had been Christians twice as long as I’d been alive! How could I possibly teach them anything?
Good question. And God gave me an even better answer: “No matter how old someone is in the church, I am much older. And no matter how wise someone is in the Church, My Word is wiser. So if you stick to prayerfully teaching My powerful word, your age will be irrelevant.” What a marvelous insight that was to this young, insecure pastor. And it was during that early season of ministry that God taught me to pray—really pray. Learning to lean on God through prayer helped me do a task that was far too big and far too hard for me to do on my own. As a bonus, my relationship with God became much closer and more meaningful.
Do you long for that? Do you want to partner with God to do things that you could never accomplish on your own? Do you want your relationship with Christ to be closer than it’s ever been? Well, prayer is the key.
Not sure how to pray? Just take a look at Jesus’ prayer in Matthew 6:5-15. It’s usually called “The Lord’s Prayer,” but a more fitting name for it would be “The Disciples’ Prayer,” since Jesus gave it to us as an example to follow. And there’s a simple recipe based on this prayer that you can use right away to make your personal prayer times more enjoyable and more impactful. It’s easy to remember because it’s spelled out in four little letters: P-R-A-Y.
The “P” in PRAY stands for PRAISE. We all have times when we’re in crisis and don’t have time to pray anything but “God, help! Help!” But as a rule of thumb, just as The Lord’s Prayer begins with praise and adoration, so too should our prayers. Before we get into the “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” petitions within our prayers, we should spend some time praising God for who He is and thanking Him for what He’s done.
The “R” in PRAY stands for REPENT. Honestly, confession and repentance are almost non-existent in our prayers. When we DO remember to ask for forgiveness, we say something very short and vague like, “Lord, forgive us for the things we did today that made your heart sad.” Well, that’s a start. But if our personal prayer times are going to be more powerful, we can’t be vague or half-hearted when bringing our sins to God. He takes our sins very seriously, and so should we. We know that in Christ, our sins are forgiven. But that’s beside the point. As we talk with God, we should grieve for our sins—our foul language, our bad tempers, our lustful thoughts, our lack of love and respect to our spouses—in order to truly repent.
The “A” in PRAY stands for ASK. Most of us are pretty good at asking. But we don’t always remember to think about the needs of those around us. So, let me suggest to you that you incorporate three kinds of asking into your prayers: 1) Ask for your church; 2) Ask for your community; 3) Ask for your family and yourself.
The “Y” in PRAY stands for YIELD. In the
when Jesus knew that his arrest and beating and crucifixion were just minutes
away, he cried out in prayer, “Father, let this cup pass from me! But not my
will, but Yours be done.” In the same spirit, Jesus teaches us in the Lord’s
Prayer to ask, “Your will be done.” Garden of Gethsemene
Praise, Repent, Ask, Yield: Four critical pieces to the prayer puzzle. You don’t need to be eloquent; you don’t need to have the perfect words. God’s idea of a “good” prayer is much different from ours. God isn’t impressed by longwinded prayers filled with flowery language and religious jargon. He is drawn to the humble, simple prayers of His followers who come to Him in their helplessness with hearts drawn to His. So, just go to God and talk with Him with your own unique voice in your own unique way. And as you talk with Him, praise Him, repent of your sin, ask Him to meet needs, and yield to His will. That’s it! That’s prayer.
Dane Davis is the Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information,
visit www.YourVictorvilleChurch.com and join us for worship Sundays at 10 am.