Summary: The key to healthy prayer is more than a technique; it is a healthy attitude. Let's look at six attitudes that lead to a satisfying and effective prayer life.
J. C. Ryle once wrote, "If I know anything of a Christian's heart, you are often sick of your own prayers." You go to pray but you can't think of what to say. Or you tell God he's awesome, and a second later you recall that the Honda needs an oil change. You promise God that you'll fight the good fight; you will be persistent in prayer and begin to doze off as you speak. You try to honestly confess your sins, and then you find yourself making excuses for everyone of them. Prayer not only works, prayer is work! Well what do we do? I believe that as much as prayer is a conversation with God, it is at its core an attitude toward God. When we find ourselves struggling in our prayer life we begin by checking our attitudes. J. I. Packer says it well when he says, “the key to healthy prayer is not technique. It's a pure heart that wants to please God.” Saint Augustine agrees “It is not words that God wants of you, but your hearts. It is with the heart we ask; with the heart we seek; and it is with the voice of the heart that the door is opened.” Well then, what does that pure heart look like? A pure heart is an undivided, single-minded heart that longs to live the kind of life that God desires. **When Luther's puppy happened to be at the table, he looked for a morsel from his master, and watched with open mouth and motionless eyes; he (Martin Luther) said, 'Oh, if I could only pray the way this dog watches the meat! All his thoughts are concentrated on the piece of meat. Otherwise he has no thought, wish or hope." And when this is the condition of our heart it produces the kind of attitudes that lead to a fulfilling and power packed prayer life. Let's look then at six prayer attitudes that lead to a satisfying and effective prayer life:
I. A pure heart bows before God with a humble attitude. (Luke 18:9-16)
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: "God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get." The tax collector, standing afar off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, "God, be merciful to me a sinner!" I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.
*Here we have two men whose two prayers had two very different destinations. The Pharisee’s prayer never went any further than the sound of his voice because his prayer was all about getting public recognition and the applause of men. The publican’s prayer reached to the very throne of God because he recognized the enormity of the sin that proceeded from his wicked heart. How often I have been driven to pray:"Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling." God hears the cry of that heart!
**Prayer is humble surrender - surrender to the will of God and cooperation with that will. If I throw out a boat hook from the boat and catch hold of the shore and pull, do I pull the shore to me, or do I pull myself to the shore? Prayer is not pulling God to my will, but the aligning of my will to the will of God.
**Ivan is enduring all the horrors of a Soviet prison camp. One day he is praying with his eyes closed when a fellow prisoner notices him and says with ridicule, "Prayers won't help you get out of here any faster." Opening his eyes, Ivan answers, "I do not pray to get out of prison but to do the will of God."
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!... Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. God wants us to agree with him about how repugnant, how filthy, how destructive our sinful thoughts and actions are. Further, he wants us to turn from them, to separate ourselves from that sinful habit, and to have a passionate desire to live a holy life. And when we honestly come to him in true repentance, he promises to cleanse us and to totally forgive us. It is not strange that while praying, we seldom ask for change of character, but most often a change in circumstance. “We must lay before him what is in us, not what ought to be in us.” (C. S. Lewis)