Right at the heart of the Christian life is prayer. Prayer means that we have a relationship with God where we can talk to him, and where we can also listen to what he is saying to us.
Because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, we have been brought into a close relationship with God. In fact, at the exact moment that Jesus died, a gigantic curtain in the nearby temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. This curtain had been put in place to block the access of fallen people to the Holy God, and yet at the moment that Jesus died, access was made open to us all, through him. In the book of Hebrews, it says that now, “we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us.”
We have access to God, and praying is simply making use of this access and speaking to him. When Jesus taught his followers how to pray, he said they should come to God as their Father, and suggested calling him ‘Abba’, which is best translated into English simply as ‘Dad’. This understanding of the relationship with God helps us to approach prayer. We don’t need to say certain specific words or recite a formal mantra, but rather we enjoy our relationship with our loving Father. We can bring authentic and real feelings to God and we look to catch something of his heart for those situations. We can spend time loving and enjoying Him for who He is, and we can also bring our requests before Him.
Just like no human Father would agree to every request their child made, but would instead want to do what is truly in their best interests, so too God doesn’t grant every request, but sometimes answers prayers with a ‘yes’, other times with a ‘no’, and sometimes with a ‘not now’. Nevertheless, God answers every prayer in accordance with his love for us, and in Matthew 7, Jesus says, “If you then… know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him.”
How to Pray
Pray Privately. In Matthew 6, Jesus offered his followers some instructions on how to pray, and he drew a contrast with the prayers of certain ‘hypocrites’. One of the biggest criticisms that Jesus made of this group was that they were praying with their eyes on the audience rather than on God. They made a big song and dance about the fact that they were praying, but Jesus explained that it is much better to simply go to your room and start talking to God.
Pray Straightforwardly. In the same chapter, Jesus goes on to explain that there is no need to use long or repetetive phrases in prayer. Extra words don’t give your prayers extra value. Instead, pray simply and straightforwardly what is on your heart. Jesus then gives the Lord’s prayer as an example of what this looks like, not as a mantra to recite but simply as a guide to what a prayer from the heart could look like.
Pray Continually. One instruction that the Apostle Paul gives about prayer is to ‘pray continually’. This doesn’t mean that we should never do anything else, but rather that in everything we do we are to have an open dialogue with God – prayer is not meant to be a once a day ritual (though some dedicated time daily is definitely a good idea) but a way of life.
Just Do It. Often we can make prayer more complicated than it needs to be and the starting point in prayer is simply to pray. There is no need to learn and adopt any particular forms or methodologies, but just talk to God in whatever way feels most comfortable to you and bring your requests to Him.
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