Best Prayer Practices

Guest Blogger:  Pastor Gordon Carpenter

Four things let us ever keep in mind: God hears prayer, God heeds prayer, God answers prayer, and God delivers by prayer.  - E. M. Bounds

Take a moment and consider the following questions: Has anyone ever asked you about your prayer life? If so, how did that question make you feel? What did you answer?

For most of us these questions are uncomfortable. In some ways, prayer is like money--we don’t like to talk about it. It’s between me and God.
But most of us don’t like to talk about it because we’re embarrassed by our prayer life. There’s not much to tell. We feel like we are inadequate to talk about it because it’s not very good.  

What makes it even harder is that it’s supposed to be one of our core practices in the Christian faith. This is not the way God meant it to be.

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.  - Matthew 6:6

Here are some best practices for developing a life of prayer.

ONE: Understand what prayer is.
Prayer is all the ways in which we communicate and commune with God. It is the essential expression of how God relates to us and how we relate to God. Simply put, it is conversation with God.

Prayer is an ongoing conversation with God. But good conversation is meant to be a dialogue. Good dialogue asks us to listen as well as speak.

Authentic prayer involves both listening to God and speaking to God. One author puts it this way:
In prayer we do not speak "about" God; we speak "with" God. We choose to become present to God who is always present to us and to respond to the One who continually seeks to communicate with us….In prayer we communicate with God verbally or silently, and we allow time and space for God to communicate with us. To pray is to open our hearts, understanding, and wills to God. - Adele Gonzalez, Companions in Christ

God speaks to you through his word and the Holy Spirit, and you respond through prayer.
TWO: Pray privately.
In our last blog post, we talked about finding a quiet place without distractions.  Jesus spoke of this in Matthew 6:6. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.

THREE: Pray frequently.
Weave prayer in with everyday activities.
Reflect before beginning each task.
Repeat a short prayer as you work.
Reflect after you finish each task.

Turn your thoughts and feelings to God as you work.
Stop several times throughout the day and pay attention to God.
Spend a few minutes reading Scripture, praying, or just being with Jesus in silence.
FOUR: Pray the prayers of the Bible.
Many of us struggle finding the right words to use in prayer. We need help learning the language of prayer, and the Bible offers a wealth of words that express the prayerful thoughts, intentions, and petitions of its human authors.

There are over 650 prayers in the Bible of various lengths that reflect many different circumstances and moods. There are prayers of praise, prayers of blessing, prayers of thanksgiving, prayers of confession, prayers of intercession, and prayers for help.
These prayers contain the true desires of our heart. Therefore, the Bible provides an excellent guide for learning how and what to pray.

FIVE: Pray the psalms.
One of the best ways to become familiar and at home in the psalms is to develop a regular habit of reading through the psalms.

The Book of Psalms is a collection of 150 prayers of the people of Israel. This collection is called the Psalter.
Every human emotion and experience is expressed in the psalms―gratitude, wonder, joy, praise, fear, anxiety, anger, despair, sorrow, love, hatred, grief, suffering, doubt, vengeance, repentance.

I read one psalm a day, taking time to reflect and pray through it. You end up praying through the Psalter two and a half times a year. This is a good way to begin. Whatever you choose, the important thing is to start.

That’s it: open our Bibles to the book of Psalms and pray them―sequentially, regularly, faithfully across a life time. This is how most Christians for most of the Christian centuries have matured in prayer.  Nothing fancy.  Just do it.  - Eugene Peterson, Answering God

SIX: Pray the prayers of others; use prayer books.
There are many collections of prayers from the early church to the present. If you use our daily prayer videos, we often use prayers from these collections.

Over the years, I have found these written prayers to be very helpful in expressing the desires of my heart when I don’t have the words myself. When my words have failed, these words of others have been timely. Many of these prayers have given voice to my deepest needs and drawn me ever closer in communion with God.

It is important that we use our own words and our own expressions to commune with God in prayer. But hopefully you will discover words from these written prayers that will enrich your relationship with God and increase your love for him.

SEVEN: Pray with gratitude.
We look back over the day, identify and thank God for any gifts, graces, or blessings we have received.

Gratitude is the foundation of our whole relationship with God, so we should not rush this step. As we grow in gratitude, we grow in our conscious awareness of God’s generosity to us. Every day, I find three things I am grateful for and I write them down in my journal.

EIGHT: Pray using a journal.
Finally, a way to connect with God during your private prayer time is journaling while praying. It can help slow you down and be more attentive to God. Plus, your journals became a collection of your conversations with God.
Again, let me encourage you to take our core class on prayer, Prayer: Opening Our Hearts to God, being offered in March, if you want to go deeper and learn 10 different prayer practices.

Pastor Gordon Carpenter
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