Struggling with Prayer

On this day, after the forty-sixth Presidential inauguration, when the country, according to the media, finally is at peace and at rest and unified, there are some of us (me) who are not at rest and struggling. Though the world says peace and safety at last, I know differently. Though the newspapers and the TV media are smiling and showing a sigh of relief, I am tense and on guard. All is really not going well, and won’t go well. The left is planning war against us Christians. They are scheming against us. And the devil is taking advantage of our unrest. He is and will come against us to destroy us so that we will not rise again. What can be done?

I have been blogging on the Lord’s Prayer, and so, I think this is a good time to put it all together and really try to better my own prayer habits from that Lord’s-Prayer-outline. I, and we all need more and better prayer at this time. If you have been following my blog posts on this prayer, we have pointed out that there is an invocation, “Our Father in Heaven”; then six petitions. The first three have to do with prayer for the glory of God; and then the next three have to do with our own needs.

The struggle for me is how to use this prayer outline in my own prayers. If I pray according to my own feelings and inclinations, I probably won’t use the outline at all; I will just tell God how I feel. If I do that, His prayer outline becomes useless. But if I force myself to use the outline, then my prayers usually become mechanical and sometimes without much heart. So, what do I do? I have to tell you that I haven’t completely figured it out yet. But I have some ideas that I am now thinking about, that I think will allow my prayer to get better. So here are my ideas.

My goal will be to use the Lord’s Prayer outline as a guide and yet to find a way to pray with my heart in it—so that His prayer outline will also be my outline, and also that I will be praying with my own heart.

The first thing that I think will be very helpful is to write out my prayers using the Lord’s prayer as a guide, and to try to write as much as I can. I will have the goal of writing a seven-page prayer with each page under the heading of one of the Lord’s Prayer points. So, on page one I will write on “Our Father.” Then on page two I will write on “Hallowed be Thy name,” and so on. And to make it less mechanical, I will really work on getting smooth transitions from page to page. Maybe on some days, when I have more time, I will try to write two pages per outline point, making it a fourteen-page prayer. I will continue this prayer writing exercise for many days, maybe for a few months.

Next, when I feel that I have mastered the writing, I will try to pray just in my thoughts without writing it out. And each time I do it, I will try to pray with my heart and all the while asking Him to help me pray.

As I think on these ideas, I am so aware that prayer is a struggle and hard work. It is hard to pray correctly and hard to train my mind to be attentive to Him. This is so much of what prayer is—being attentive to Him. It will also be challenging to get everything to fit where it belongs; that is, where in the prayer outline do I confess sins, and where do I pray for friends, and so many other things. These are things that need to be worked out in the prayer writing; and then hopefully, when I graduate from the writing, I will have it figured out—so that in the end I will know how to pray to the Father appropriately and with praise.

In all that I have written here I am mainly talking about your private prayers. Public prayer may be similar, but not as long. I think public prayers should always be short, as not to appear prideful, and also to allow others to pray.

How to Begin Your Prayers

Generally, before we (Christians) go to prayer, it is always good to realize what a privilege we have to be in God’s presence and to be able to talk with Him face to face and soul to soul. Prayer is truly a high activity of the soul—the highest activity of the soul.

When you begin to pray, don’t think that it is okay to just ramble on with your requests or to just say whatever is on you mind. We all tend to do that—me too. But there is a correct way to pray. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, He gave them a skeleton prayer to follow (found in Matthew 6:9-13). We call it “The Lord’s Prayer.” We are not to just recite this prayer, as some do; but we are to use it as a guide, or as an outline. If we do that, we are well on our way to be able to pray correctly; for in this skeleton prayer contains every prayer principle.

Our Father

As you go to pray, the first thing you should do as you bow your head is to pause and remind yourself of what you are about to do and who you are about to speak to. Remind yourself that you are in the presence of holiness, and that He, your Father, is with you listening and attentive. You may want to have a copy of the Lord’s Prayer before you, and focus first on the first two words of the prayer: Our Father. Yes, He is your Father, and my Father. So, realize that all of us who are believers have the same Father and we are in a wonderful relationship with Him.

Our Father in heaven

At this point in your prayer, you can continue to ruminate on what it means to be in the family of God and to thank and praise Him for who He is and what He has done for you. And then, at some point you will want to move on to the next few words… “in heaven.” He is your and our Father in heaven. What does that mean? It refers to His greatness and that His presence is everywhere. He is almighty God in heaven. He is all knowing, present everywhere, and all powerful.

In your prayers you may at first just be thinking of Him and of your relationship with Him. But at some point, you will also want to start speaking to Him. Thank Him and praise Him for being your Father and for who He is. Praise and worship Him in the best way you know how.

Final comments. If you have been a Christian for a long time maybe what I am teaching here seems too mechanical, or too basic. Believe me, I understand. But especially for a new Christian, I think it is important to get on the right track. I hear too many Christians praying incorrectly. Some of them, all they do is list their needs as if they are talking to Santa Claus. That is so disrespectful. I think it is important to at first follow the outline of the Lord’s Prayer. And then after a while, as it is firm in your mind, your prayers will flow more easily and you, without even realizing it, will be praying correctly, as He taught us.

The next line in the Lord’s Prayer is “hallowed be Your name.” I will save that for the next blog.