Prayer is an important part of our lives as Christians, or it should be if we are not in practice of prayer. It can be difficult as a Christian if we don’t know how to pray, that we get frustrated when we don’t see our prayers get answered, or they aren’t answered the way we want them to be answered.
Many Christians I have come across spend more time in petitioning God for things and outcomes of situations rather than sitting and listening to what the Holy Spirit has to say. If you’re constantly talking and asking without spending any time listening, how will you ever receive an answer?
This connection with God is through our Creator’s spirit to ours. The first place we learn how to listen is through prayer. Jesus gave us a template to prayer and communication with God. (Matthew 6:9-13)
The first step, when we pray, is to celebrate and honor God through praise and worship.
“Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name”
By praising the name of God, celebrating who He is and who He claims to be, we are making sure that we are identifying the one true God and not calling upon some false deity.
“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”
In this next line, I feel is where we as Christians tend to fall short of communicating with God. In a group of Christians, when they begin to pray, they usually get that first part right, by acknowledging God and the access to our Creator through Jesus, but immediately afterwards, we start asking for things for ourselves, rather than for the kingdom of God to reign upon here on earth.
Here is where we tend to ask, instead of listening. We ask for things that we think are what God wants instead of what the will of God is. Is it here that we ask to be glorified, or for God to be glorified? Are we asking or are we listening?
Have you ever had a friend where you spend the entire time listening to their lives, their troubles, their ideas, but when it comes for your turn to speak or share, they pick up their phone, have somewhere to go, or some other response? Are we that friend to God? Do we share with God our lives and woes, but when it comes to listening to his heart, are we too busy? We tend to ask for our daily bread before we listen to the heart of God.
“Give us this day our daily bread”
This is not a request or even a demand on our part, this is a call for us to listen. Where do you know to go to get what you need, (daily bread), if you don’t listen? Have you ever had a conversation with someone where you’ve given them directions, told them how to do something, but they won’t keep their mouth shut long enough to hear what you’re saying, and consequently they get lost or can’t find where you told them to find it? That’s who we are, when we don’t listen. We are that foolish person who thinks they know everything, but won’t pay attention long enough to learn even directions of how to get to the store or search for something.
“and forgive us our debts”
There is a conversation that I continually have with other Christians about sin. Once you are saved, the sin nature, that which propelled us towards death and separated us from God is now destroyed. We have been given a new nature, a rebirth of our spirit, in which we are now born of God, however, your flesh, that which is unredeemable, is still steeped in the pattern of this world and trained to continue in sin. Although we have been redeemed, we fight continually with our flesh. (Romans 7:15-20) It is by the grace of God and the sacrifice of Christ that we are able to have a clean conscience, and the things that we do good are not of our own doing, but Christ within us that does them, this new nature that is indwelling in us. However, our flesh does get in the way. If all Christians were now completely without sin, we wouldn’t have the divisions in the Church, backbiting, fighting, and problems that are apparent. We are to ask the forgiveness of God for our debts.* (*This word has been translated as sins, transgressions, etc. The greek word is opheilema, which translates to a debt, offense or sin.)
By asking for forgiveness, we acknowledge that it is not our righteousness that makes us right with God, but our Creator’s righteousness that covers us. In doing this, we humble ourselves, reminding us who we were before God’s grace and the power of the redeeming quality of Christ’s sacrifice for us.
“as we forgive our debtors.”
If God is great enough to forgive our sin, and we now have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within us, it is imperative that we forgive those who offend us, those who sin against us, those who we feel owe us something. Our Creator forgave us for something we could never repay, for something that had been done thousand of years to us, before we were ever being born. If God is indwelling in us, we are to forgive those who have held us captive, stolen from us, and persecute us, for we were at one time against God with our sin nature and yet He forgave us. If we do not forgive, it interferes with our ability to hear the voice of God. When you harbor unforgiveness towards a person or people, it consumes you, occupies your thoughts, infiltrates your actions, and causes unrest within yourself. It is difficult to be still, when you are angry and worked up over sins against yourself or others.
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:”
Most of how Jesus taught his disciples to pray, is based on the principle of active listening to the voice of God. Our Creator is not the giant candy dispenser in the sky, doling out cars, piles of cash, and miraculous deliveries out of terrible situations to utopias! No! He is the author of peace that passes understanding, the savior of our souls, the bridge between death to life. If you are serious about your salvation, and you truly believe that you have that bridge of communication, cross that bridge and begin listening to His voice.
“For thine is the power and the glory forever and ever, amen”
No matter how much good we do in His name, we can never take responsibility for the good done. Any thing that is done that brings good to people and glory, is done because of Christ through us, not because of us. Without Jesus, our righteousness is as filthy rags, any good we do is worthless. If we allow ourselves to take on God’s righteousness and then claim it as our own, we deny the power of Christ within us. We then say that we only need Christ when we are weak. In all truth, we are at all times weak when it comes to the power of the resurrection within us, for it is not us, it is Christ within us that allows us to do anything of good for His kingdom. It is our responsibility, when we pray, to acknowledge where glory and honor is due, and that is with God alone.
When we pray this way, allowing our prayers to be in God’s will instead of dictating what we feel we need or desire onto God, we end up more satisfied, for who knows better what we need than God? He knows what we want before we even speak it, but even more so, God ultimately knows what we need before we ask. (Psalm 139)
Let’s make our hearts align with the will of God as we pray. If we don’t know what His will is, then let us pray for His will to be done and lay our desires at His feet, and if it’s what God wants for us, then let it be up to Him how it should come about.