Summary: Basics about what prayer is, why it’s important, and how to do it.
This is our fifth and final week in our You Asked For It series of messages. And I think it’s been good. You’ve asked some important questions and I’m glad we’ve had the opportunity to address them. In fact, I plan to make this an annual series… every August. So you can start thinking now about what topics or issues or passages of Scripture you would like addressed on Sunday mornings next summer. And thank you to those who made requests this time around.
Today we’re going to look at the question, “How Do I Pray?” Prayer is one of the most important parts of the Christian life and a primary way to grow in your relationship with Jesus, so this is a critical question. And I know that it can be an intimidating idea to talk to God through prayer. Am I doing it right? Am I using the right words? If I mess up will God be offended?
Prayer can be such an awkward thing sometimes, and it can seem like such a mystery. I think we’re pretty good in the Church at saying we should pray, but I’m not sure we’re as strong at explaining how to pray.
So we’re going to spend the next 25 minutes or so talking about prayer. We’ll do a bit of background and finish up talking about practical ways to improve your prayer life. And you can use the notes provided for you in your Sunrise Update to follow along and fill in the blanks.
What Is Prayer?
Prayer is having a heart to heart with God
It’s a two way conversation about the things that are important to us and that are important to God. You don’t need to worry about using all kinds of poetic language, you don’t need to go through any sort of ritual… prayer is simply a heart to heart with God. It’s talking to a friend… your best friend. And sometimes in fact it goes beyond words. Have you ever been in the position where you’re trying to pray and you’re struggling and you just don’t know what to say? Check this out…
Romans 8:26-27 (NLT)
For we don’t even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.
When you have no idea what to say or how to express your thoughts and feelings, the Holy Spirit, who is the third person of the Trinity, steps in and helps out by translating for us. And the Holy Spirit helps us express our hearts to God the Father. That’s what prayer is. Don’t confuse it with anything more complicated than that. Prayer is simply communicating with God. It’s having a heart to heart with Him.
No words make prayer. Only a heart reaching out to God is prayer.
~ Carroll Johnson Shewmake
Why Should I Pray?
First, a couple reasons not to pray.
A. Prayer should not be for selfish reasons
God is not Santa Claus, He’s not a genie in a bottle, and He’s not a vending machine. Don’t come to Him with a list of “I want, I want, I want.” You’re not placing an order over the phone. Prayer is a conversation. It’s having a heart to heart with God. And in that context, it’s okay to talk about your needs and wants, but don’t make that all prayer is to you.
B. Prayer should not be a religious ritual
In the passage Lynn read earlier…
Matthew 6:7 (NLT)
“When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered only by repeating their words again and again.”
Prayer is not about a religion, it’s about a relation.
Devoted prayer is not a religious duty or even a mere religious experience. It is profound, deep, and inexpressible. It is experiencing God in the ultimate sense.
~ Paul Cedar
It’s about getting to know God more and more, not about meeting all the requirements of a church or religion.
So why should I pray?
C. Prayer lets you understand and experience God better
Isn’t that basically how any relationship grows? You talk with each other, you communicate with each other, sometimes even when you don’t know the words to say? Here’s the thing: The Creator of everything, the CEO of the cosmos invites you to have a personal audience with Him. He wants to spend time with you in a completely unguarded way. He wants you to be honest with Him and He wants to be honest with you. He wants to let you know about the things that are important to Him and give you a glimpse of His character and His holiness. Prayer helps us understand and experience God. It’s about intimacy with God.