Prayer can be such a confusing thing. As a young child, I knew it was something I was supposed to do, but I had an awful lot of questions. If I prayed for one team to win the basketball game, and someone else prayed for the other team to win, what would happen? If I prayed for mom to let me play outside, would she have to let me? As you can tell, my 6-year-old self lived a simple life with very simple desires.
I must admit, prayer is something I still haven’t quite figured out! If you’re anything like me, you probably have questions as well. Although I still have much to grow in, here are five truths God has used to shape my prayer life. Understanding these things has made me all the more eager to come before God in prayer, and I hope it will do the same for you.
Prayer is a way to bend our will toward God’s will
People often ask, “If God doesn’t always answer my prayer the way I want Him to, why pray?” This question hits at a common misconception: prayer is about getting God to do what I want Him to do. The truth is, however, that prayer is not about us bending God’s will toward our will. Rather, it is about God bending our will toward His. As we lay our desires before God, we should not be expectant that He will always give us exactly what we want, but if we are in Christ, we can be expectant that God will certainly give us what is best for us and make us more like Christ in that process (Romans 8:28).
Prayer helps us cultivate trust in God
Once we understand that God uses prayer to bend our will toward His will, we cultivate trust in Him through prayer. If we pray for one thing and God gives us another, it’s not because He doesn’t love us. In fact, it’s precisely because He does love us and understands what we need more than we do. God’s answers to our prayers give us opportunities to trust that his ways are better than our ways.
Prayer gives us peace
Where true trust lies, peace is close at hand. When you are anxious about something, lay it all down before the Father. If you are resting in the outcome, you will undoubtedly continue in anxiousness. However, if you are resting in the One who provides the outcome, you will have peace, trusting that what He provides is best, even if it’s not the thing you think is best. This is exactly what Paul means in Philippians 4:6-7 when he says “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Prayer is talking to the creator of the universe
Have you ever stopped to think that when you pray, you are talking to the creator of the universe? Not only does the creator of the universe hear our prayers, but God’s word tells us we can approach God’s throne with confidence because we have a high priest who walked this earth and is able to empathize with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15-16).
Prayer is how we confess sin to God
When we are convicted of our sin, it is tempting to want to hide from God out of shame. Yet it is in these times that we should run to God, confess our sin, rejoice in the forgiveness provided in Jesus Christ, and be freed from the shame and guilt that burdens us.
Here are a few practical tips to grow in prayer:
- Journal your prayers. Look back on them in future weeks, months, and years to see how God has been faithful to answer your prayers.
- Spend some time in deep, meditative prayer. Here are two methods I love:
- Pray through a Psalms
- Most of the Psalms are worship songs to God. Read one, and let each verse fuel your prayer to God
- ACTS method
- Adoration: Adore God for who he is
- Confession: Confess sin to God
- Thanksgiving: Thank God for what he has done
- Supplication: Lay your cares before God
- Pray through a Psalms
- BUT: don’t feel like all your prayers have to be deep and meditative. Pray when you walk. When you drive. When you eat. It doesn’t have to be fancy or elaborate. Just talk to God. Scripture commands us to pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17), not just when we can lock ourselves in a room for an hour with Christian music playing at the perfect volume in the background.
Be real with God. Don’t sugarcoat your prayers. God already knows your heart! Lay your cares before God.