Helping people discover, trust, and love Jesus Christ.

The Why, How, When, Where of Prayer

Why we pray
If you sat down and read a book about prayer, the author would likely try to communicate four different concepts; why we should pray , how we should pray, when we should pray, and where we should pray.  Let's take some time to focus on the motivating factor that will lead us to a life of prayer. There are a lot of reasons why people might pray - a need, an emergency, desperation, for a relationship. It's not wrong to pray about want and needs but these things will not cause us to pray consistently. A life of prayer is motivated by something different. We find this motivation in the first few words of the Lord's Prayer, 'Our Father' (Matthew 6:9-13). As we pursue a relationship with God, a desire rises up to know Him for who he really is, our Father.

How we should pray
Schedule time to pray. Setting aside time is key advice given to people that are wanting to start something new. If you're going to learn an instrument, develop a relationship, or try to get in shape , these things all require time. When we set aside time to pray, we grow in our relationship with our heavenly father.

Make a prayer list. Write a list of persons, places, things and prayers that you're going to pray about.  While the purpose of prayer is not to give God your list of wants, it does encompass request. If you have people in your life that don't know Jesus you might make a list of them and pray for specific prayer over each individual person. The list can encompass all people that you know that need divine intervention from family coworkers, friends and even acquaintances. A list is a way to remind us of the things that we need gods help him. Matthew 7:7-11 Invites us to ask God For help and that God gives good gifts.

Utilize books of pre-written prayers. There are prayer resources from others who have prayed more than we have. Utilizing these resources can help us develop a life of prayer by giving us words for things we aren't sure how to say yet. Recommended resources include: Prayers that Avail Much,  The Valley of Vision, Every Moment Holy, Saint Augustine's Prayer Book andPrayers to Strengthen Your Inner Man. Remember as you read any book on your journey, that there is no formula to prayer, these books are an encouragement as you grow in this discipline.

Prayer Journaling. When you read the words 'prayer journaling' there are two types of responses people have; one response is that this is daunting and they're never going to do it and the other is really excited. There are people who connect through writing and there are people who connect through talking. God made both of them. Journaling can be as detail oriented as writing out your entire prayer or as simple as summarizing what you prayed for on a particular day. It's a great opportunity to look back and see how God has ministered to your heart and met your needs. Journaling is creating a book filled with thanksgiving! This is something worth doing even if you're not a writer.

Read your Bible. As you pray God might speak to you through reminding you of a scripture or bring a Bible verse to memory and you'll need to look it up. God can speak to us in many different ways from an audible voice to a still small voice or in dreams and visions. Moreover, God speaks to his people through encouragement, correction and reproof in scripture.

When we pray
While you pray: We may think our prayers are supposed to sound perfect but prayers are messy and honest moments with God. Talk to God like you would talk to your best friend. If we need to vent then we should vent to God, if we are in a great mood we offer thanksgiving to God because He is a trusted confidant, encouraging friend, and a comforting father. There's no reason to hide or feel pressure to perform while you pray. If you don't know how to pray you can ask the Lord for help, He is patient and caring.

After you pray: Take time to sit in silence and wait for a response. You might consider journaling the things that you asked for or the impressions that you've received from your time of prayer. Journaling is a great tool to be able to look back and see what God has done and is doing. We may forget on our own, but journaling is a way of reminding of us of God's work.

Praying with someone: One of the most powerful things that you can do for someone is pray with them. We have a tendency to feel uncomfortable when we pray out loud. What we forget is that it is actually deeply encouraging to hear someone pray for you. When you encounter someone who's facing big challenges - a parent dealing with a child turning their back on the faith they grew up in, an individual that lost their job, when health is fading and there is little hope - people always seem to be encouraged by prayer because you are partnering with them in petitions to the Lord, and you are trusting God for whatever the outcome may be.

Where we should pray
There are two Bible verses that highlight where we should pray. Matthew 6:6 communicates the idea that we should pray in secret. One way to get started with praying in secret is to dedicate a spare room or clean out a closet to pray in. You don't need a lot of space to pray. You can even pray in your car. Some people like to go to parks and walk around praying. Praying in secret, for some of us, might be an obstacle to overcome. You may have a stressful job, or kids who make your home loud and it can be challenging to find a quiet, personal space to pray. Do what you can to find a space, even if it means getting up earlier in the day before other obligations and sit in your favorite chair. Finding a location where you go to meet God is a sacred space.
The second Bible verse is 1 Thessalonians 5:17 which tells us to never stop praying. It might seem like these two Bible verses are in competition with each other but that's not the case. Matthew 6:6 is highlighting the importance of getting away and having alone time with God which is extremely needed. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 is highlighting our need for God in every single moment. Sometimes life is so noisy we need to find a quiet place to be with God and at other times it's so busy we can't get away and we need God to be with us. It might be a good idea to evaluate where you're at. Are you feeling burnt out? It may be time to plan a spiritual retreat with no electronics and just pray at cabin in the woods or at the beach.
There is a lot of information to process about praying. What are some things that you can do to start your prayer journey? Pick a next step for yourself and see how God works in your life as you communicate with Him.