PRAY WITH US
If you’re wondering about how to pray an effective prayer, you’re not alone—even a disciple of Jesus asked Him for instructions about how to pray:
“Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples’” (Luke 11:1).
Prayer is our means of communicating with God. As with any personal relationship, interaction with God matures as we spend more time with Him.
As the Lord’s disciple indicated, prayer is something that does not come naturally to us—it’s something we have to be taught. The inspired Word of God provides the answers to some frequently asked questions about how to pray.
Pray to the Father
Jesus was very clear that our prayers are directed to God the Father: “Pray to your Father who is in the secret place” (Matthew 6:6). “In this manner, therefore pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name’” (verse 9).
Now that Jesus Christ is in heaven as the Mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5), we pray “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). Jesus said we can ask the Father for anything in His name (John 14:13-14).
Though Christ was very clear, it is amazing how many churches pray in ways that directly contradict this instruction. Prayers are not to be directed to angels, Mary or any saints!
The Bible doesn’t prescribe a “correct” time to pray—on the contrary, it shows us that many of God’s people prayed throughout the day and at different times.
In Psalm 55:17 King David said he would pray in the “evening and morning and at noon.” Daniel also prayed three times a day (Daniel 6:10, 13).
There are several references to praying in the middle of the afternoon (“at the ninth hour”) while the 119th Psalm talks about praising God “seven times a day” (Psalm 119:164). Many Christians make it a point to pray at the beginning and end of each day, making sure they “bookend” their days in conversation with God.
There’s no wrong time for prayer—the important thing is that we set aside time to pray regularly. Paul even said to pray “without ceasing”—meaning that prayer should be a regular and consistent part of our daily lives and not something we resort to only at difficult times (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
How long you pray is a lot like when you choose to pray—the Bible doesn’t offer any specific guidelines for us on those counts.
For example, when Jesus selected His disciples, He spent the entire night praying (Luke 6:12-13). But then He warned those same disciples against praying “like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward” (Matthew 6:5).
He also warned them to “beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation” (Mark 12:38-40).
Compare the scribes’ prayers with the prayer of Elijah recorded in 1 Kings 18. In an attempt to be heard by their god, 450 priests of Baal spent the day shouting to their god and cutting themselves—but there was no answer.
After they’d exhausted themselves, Elijah offered this simple prayer to the true God: “LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that You are the LORD God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again” (1 Kings 18:36-37).
Those few words were all it took—in response, God sent fire down from heaven to consume Elijah’s sacrifice, exposing the prophets of Baal as the frauds they were.
Prayers don’t always have to be long. But to have a real relationship with God, your prayers won’t always be short either. What’s important is what you’re choosing to talk to God about, and giving it as much time as it needs.
The Bible teaches us that God wants to hear from us and that our relationship with Him grows by spending time with Him. God is more concerned with the content of our prayers. Our prayers should be as long as they need to be to say what we need to say and ask what we need to ask.
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