Asked for It
How Do I Pray?
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
August 31, 2003
Matthew 6:5-13 (NLT)
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
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?
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.
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.
should not be a religious ritual
In the passage Lynn read
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.
Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)
Don't worry about anything; instead, pray
about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has
done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far
more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard
your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
God has designed prayer as a means of intimate and joyous fellowship
between God and man.
~ O.H. Hallesby
D. Prayer lets
you express yourself to Him
Open up your Bible to
pretty much any of the Psalms, and you’ll see that’s exactly what the
writers were doing. Most of the Psalms are written as prayers, and by
reading through them you can see how the writers used those Psalms to
express their anguish and their joy, their fear, their thankfulness…
They expressed the deepest parts of themselves to God.
“Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as a friend. Not that it is
necessary in order to make known to God what we are, but in order for
us to receive Him. Prayer does not bring God down to us, but brings us
up to Him.”
~ Ellen White
E. Prayer gives
God permission to work and meet needs
God is a gentleman. He
doesn’t force Himself in where He’s not wanted. He’s given us free
will, and He’s not about to infringe on that. So even though He has the
power and authority to do anything He wants, he waits for permission
Prayer moves the arm which moves the world, and brings salvation down.
~ James Montgomery
So that’s why we should pray. How about when?
When Should I Pray?
Well, let me ask you.
When should you prayer? What are some good opportunities you have
through the course of a day to pray?
(e.g. driving, walking, shower, before bed, in morning, gardening…)
Let me show you a couple passages. These verses are included in your
notes and I want you to underline a few phrases:
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)
Be joyful always; pray continually;
give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in
Ephesians 6:18 (NLT)
Pray at all times and on
every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Stay alert
and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere.
A. You can pray
You do not have to be in
church and it doesn’t have to be on Sunday. In fact, it’d better not be
limited to just that. You can pray anytime anyplace, and should.
B. You can
schedule a regular time with God
You can put it on your
calendar every day or so many times a week to have a date with God. Let
me make some suggestions.
a Time When…
and you’re not going to fall asleep on Him or discover you can’t focus.
be no competition
and you don’t have a dozen other things demanding your attention all at
the same time. In fact, you may want to keep a notebook handy so when
that thing pops into your head that you don’t want to forget about, you
can write it down and put it out of your head until you’re done praying.
You can be
so you can build a habit into you life of taking time regularly to be
What is the best time
for me? _____________________________
How Do I Pray?
Let me share with you
seven thoughts on how to pray.
1. There is no
magic art to prayer
You can stand, you can
kneel, you can close your eyes, you can keep your eyes open, you can
clasp your hands, you can raise your arms, you can keep them at your
side… There is no magic art to prayer. There’s no correct posture, no
required ritual. How, then, do you pray?
2. Pray in a
way that is consistent with who you are
Your voice doesn’t have
to change, you don’t have to use words you don’t use in everyday life,
you don’t need to speak in “Thee”s and “Thou”s. Just talk normally. Be
honest, don’t put on any masks, and don’t conceal any faults. God knows
everything about you anyway. So be yourself. You may feel a little
uncomfortable at first, but stick with it and it will become more
natural for you.
3. Believe that
God hears and answers prayer
“The only time my
prayers are never answered is on the golf course.”
~ Billy Graham
Read these verses from Psalm 116 aloud with me:
Psalm 116:1-2 (NLT)
I love the LORD because he hears and answers
my prayers. Because he bends down and listens, I will pray as long as I
God hears the prayers of His people and He always answers them. He
doesn’t always answer the way you expect Him to, but He always answers
them. I came across a little thing that talks about the four ways God
God Answers Prayer:
If the request is
wrong, God will say, “No.”
If the timing is
wrong, God will say, “Slow.”
If you are wrong,
God will say, “Grow.”
When all is right,
God will say, “Let’s go!”
He may not answer the
way you expect or want, but you can trust that He does answer according
to His wisdom which is far greater than yours or mine. Well, maybe
yours… (Definitely mine.)
4. Pray to
connect, not impress
Matthew 6:5 (NLT)
“And now about prayer. When you pray, don't
be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and
in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I assure you, that is
all the reward they will ever get.”
The goal of prayer is not to impress whoever may hear you pray or to
impress God Himself, it’s simply to connect with Him. God would rather
you bumble around mixing up your words and having trouble expressing
yourself than reciting a beautiful eloquent prayer that has no
substance and simply isn’t real.
5. Pray with a
If you want to connect
with God, there can’t be anything getting in the way. If you expect
your prayers to be effective, you need to be living in obedience to His
Word and His Will.
Proverbs 15:29 (NLT)
The LORD is far from the wicked, but he
hears the prayers of the righteous.
James 5:16 (NLT)
The earnest prayer of a righteous person has
great power and wonderful results.
Part of praying with a pure heart also means that you aren’t holding
any grudges against anyone else:
Mark 11:25 (NLT)
“But when you are praying, first forgive
anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven
will forgive your sins, too.”
Monopolize the Conversation
“A man prayed, and at
first he thought prayer was talking. But he became more and more quiet
until in the end he realized that prayer is listening.”
~ Søren Kierkegaard
There’s a time to talk in prayer, and there’s a time to listen. Don’t
just say whatever you want to say and get up and leave. That’s rude.
Prayer is not a speech we make to God, it’s a conversation. And that
means we need to allow God the opportunity to share with us, too.
And don’t be afraid of silence. Sometimes we need to experience some
silence before we can hear His still soft voice.
Psalm 46:10-11 (NLT)
“Be silent, and know that I am God! I will
be honoured by every nation. I will be honoured throughout the world.”
The LORD Almighty is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress.
Sometimes we simply need to be silent before Him and allow Him to have
God can speak to you in a variety of ways…
can speak to you…
It’s a good idea to combine prayer with reading the Bible. Pray that
God will speak to you through His Word, pray that you’ll be able to
understand, pray that you’ll be able to apply His Word to your everyday
Psalm 119:105 (NLT)
Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.
The closer you get to know God, the more you can recognize His
proddings. He can give you impressions, He can activate your
conscience, He can remind you of His Word, and He can direct the course
of your life.
Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)
Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own
understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your
God can use our worship celebrations on Sunday mornings or the LIFE
Groups through the week or the one-on-one relationships we develop with
other believers to communicate His Truths to us.
signs and circumstances
If you look closely, you can see the handiwork of God all around you,
intricately involved in the tapestry of your life. The book of Romans
tells us that nature itself points us toward God.
I debated about putting this in here because there are a lot of kooks
running around claiming that God told them to do this or to do that,
and it’s obvious that God had no part in it. God gets blamed for a lot
of things because people say they heard a voice telling them to do
But you know, there are plenty of examples in Scripture and throughout
history of people who I believe did hear from God in an audible way. I
have no doubt that God can speak to people that way. I myself have
never heard him speak to me that way, although there have been times
that He has spoken to me in ways that it might as well have been
audible. But God can speak to people like that and has in the past.
There’s no real reason to claim that He doesn’t do that now.
A couple things to remember: First of all, the instances recorded in
the Bible of God speaking to people is stretched out over thousands of
years. It’s not an everyday occurrence. And secondly, a message from
God will never contradict His Written Word. If you receive a message
from God telling you to do something that goes against what the Bible
says, that message is not from God.
7. Try using
the acronym ACTS
As I’ve already said,
there is no magic art to prayer and it’s not based on any form of
ritual. But if you’re having trouble getting going and you need a bit
more structure, then this is a model of prayer which I have found very
useful in my own life. And so that it’s easy to remember, it’s based on
the letters A-C-T-S.
Adoration – Give praise to God for
who He is and how very great He is.
Confession – Tell God “I’m sorry”
when you have failed Him. Ask for forgiveness and help.
Thanksgiving – Tell Him “Thank
You” for all the great things He has done for you. Reflect on how good
God has been and how He has answered your prayers.
Supplication – Ask His help for
your needs and the needs of others. (You can put the word "requests" in
You may want to use a notebook to keep track of the things you’ve
prayed for and record when and how God answers those prayers.
There’s a lot more about
prayer we could talk about, but that will have to wait for another
week. For now, let’s practice what we’ve been talking about. Let’s pray.