- November 7, 2018
- Christian Living
Matthew 7:7 tells us “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Have you ever prayed relentlessly with this verse in mind, only to grow angry and bitter when God didn’t give you the desired outcome? Some days you will find it hard to get out of bed, not because of how comfortable you are, but instead because life simply doesn’t make sense and you don’t know what you’re going to do. Perhaps it’s a medical issue, the loss of a job, or something even worse. Whatever has left you in this confusing place, it’s probably also affecting your relationship with God. You need to fight the temptation to give up on God even if that sounds impossible. You may be asking yourself "How do I pray when I feel like He isn’t listening?” or "How do I pray to a God who has allowed me to suffer?”
No matter what you are going through, He cares for you. Just because you are hurting today, it doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate tomorrow. Let’s look at some ways you can approach prayer and set yourself up for a better chance at life.
How Do I Pray Regularly?
Despite whatever circumstances you are dealing with, how we pray doesn’t change that much from Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 6:9-13. Looking at the Lord’s Prayer, we’ll see some common themes develop.
“Pray, then, in this way:
‘Our Father, who is in heaven,
Hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’”
The simple answer to "How do I pray?” is to journey back to this advice from Jesus and see what is really being said. Let’s unpack this one truth at a time and discuss how the same can still be said even when life doesn’t make sense.
To borrow a phrase from Rick Warren, “it’s not about you.” The first section of the Lord’s Prayer is an important perspective we should always maintain. God comes first. He is all-powerful and He alone is worthy of all praise. If He isn’t answering your prayers the way you want Him to, maybe what you want isn’t what’s best. His timing is better than our own, so maybe He’s just telling you to wait. Regardless, we need to rest in the knowledge that someone infinitely smarter than us is at the wheel.
That takes us to the next step. It should be immensely freeing to know you don’t have to keep every plate spinning forever. He takes care of the birds, the ocean, and literally everything within the borders of space and time. We’re willing to bet that He’s worthy of your trust, no matter the situation. When we pray “give us this day our daily bread,” we are trusting Him to provide for our basic needs each and every day. That continual trust helps us to keep the right frame of mind.
Acknowledge Your Fears
When life doesn’t make sense, just about anything can bring up a host of fears. You’ll find yourself facing old temptations you thought you already defeated and giving undeserved respect to fears you never entertained before. It can be a scary, spiritually hazardous world out there. Acknowledge the danger and trust God to lead you away from it. This, combined with action on your part, can work wonders on any problem you are facing. Your situation will seem less scary once you have analyzed and surrendered it to God.
Remember Who God Is
The last line of the Lord’s Prayer brings us all the way back around to God’s holiness and dominion. Everything belongs to the Lord and He is in total control, even if it doesn’t seem that way. This final phrase comes after we have asked for several things from God and part of what it means is: 1) You, Lord, are worthy of this prayer because we know You hold all power and 2) Regardless of what we want, we understand that You will act in whatever way is best to You. We know it can be hard to trust God when life hurts, but the whole of scripture points us to a God who cares for us and is constantly working in our lives.
Find Inspiration in Scripture
This section in Matthew 6 isn’t the only place you can find inspiration in the Bible. There are many popular figures from scripture who wondered "How do I pray to this God I don’t fully understand?” David was anointed by God’s servant to become the future king of Israel, only to find persecution from the current king for a number of years. Joseph was told in a series of visions that he would one day rule over his brothers, only to spend years in slavery and prison. Abraham and Sarah endured years of infertility and a dangerous, nomadic lifestyle, but God called them to begin a great nation. The people we read about in the Bible led lives that were probably more difficult than anything we will have to experience. Learn from their words and actions.
Allow the Holy Spirit to Work
Your situation may be one where the pain is too great to coherently bring a request to God. Fortunately there is One who can intercede on our behalf in such a time. Romans 8:26-27 tells us there are some “groanings too deep for words.” You may not be eloquent in your prayers and whatever need you have is probably not going to increase your vocabulary. To our benefit, God understands our feelings and can translate our pain into prayer. Trust He is at work and give Him the room to do so.
Be Honest with God
When life doesn’t make sense, you don’t have to lie to God as if He will look more favorably on you because you’re polite. Be honest about your emotions and your needs. He already knows what you’re feeling, so you might as well be real with Him. You will feel better on an emotional level once you’ve released everything. On top of that, we have a personal relationship with Him as Christians. Can you think of too many instances where not being honest with your friend or spouse has been a good idea? "How do I pray when I’m hurting?” Let go of the pain and believe.
Keep It Up
Prayer is our communication with God. Like most relationships in your life, you can’t just swoop by every now and then and believe there is an intimate connection. You need to come before God as often as you can. As 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “pray without ceasing.” Stay in communication with Him and see if He won’t take care of you.
We hope this answers the question of "How do I pray?" Life can be pretty tough at times, but we have a God who is always there for us. Lean on Him and believe that He cares.
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