How Do I Pray?
What Words Should I Use?
Private Personal Prayer
by John and Carrol Shewmake
Jesus, our example in prayer
Jesus is the best teacher of prayer and our best example in prayer. His counsel on how to conduct personal prayer is simple and concise:
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matt. 6:6, NIV)
Notice the 5 basic principles for prayer contained in this short verse:
When you pray—a time for prayer
Go into your room—a place for prayer
Close the door—privacy for prayer
Pray to your Father—a specific Person in mind—your Father in heaven
Then your Father will reward you—God answers prayer!
Because Jesus knew that many people prayed to idols and false gods, He clearly identified the Father in heaven as the One to be addressed in prayer.
A Christian writer comments about this passage:
Christ's lessons in regard to prayer should be carefully considered. There is a divine science in prayer, and the illustration brings to view principles that all need to understand. He shows what is the true spirit of prayer, He teaches the necessity of perseverance in presenting our requests to God, and assures us of His willingness to hear and answer prayer. Ellen White, Christ's Object Lessons, page 142.
Jesus gives us another ground rule for prayer in John 15:16:
Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in My name. John 15:16, last part. We must not only pray to the Father, but also in the name of Jesus, our Elder Brother, our Redeemer.
Are there any special words I need to use?
The idea of talking to Someone you cannot see with your physical sight or hear with your physical ears is sometimes daunting. Although there is a science to the art of prayer (conditions for answers to prayer: humility of heart, confession of sins, faith, etc.) yet prayer is the channel of an individual relationship with God. God loves our individuality—so we don't need to recite written prayers but can speak them from our own hearts, speaking as though face-to-face with a friend.
Differing ways to pray
Like speaking with a friend, talking with God can differ from time to time. Sometimes we pray in great immediate need, sometimes it is because we have sensed God calling us to praise Him. Many of us come at a regular time each day to receive forgiveness, to learn more of Him, seek guidance. There is no one-way to pray. You can't describe the perfect way to pray. As long as you come to Him with a humble, contrite heart, He hears you.
Different personalities and cultures may find different ways to make prayer more meaningful to them. Sometimes it helps all of us to better sense God's presence when we experiment with various ways to pray. Here are a few suggestions of ways that can easily lead into a deepening heart-felt devotional prayer time.
We thank John and Carrol Shewmake for their permission to use the materials in the section above.
Link to their ministry and several other resources: http://www.prayerpartners.com/
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