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Spiritual Disciplines: How to Pray?

In Luke 11 the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray. It is comforting to think the disciples needed to learn how to pray too. As we walk with Christ, we are to grow in His likeness. This is the process of sanctification where we are learning and growing as we read the Word, spend time with other believers, and pray. In part, this means our prayer life will grow and mature as we do more of it. This is not to say our prayers are more pleasing to the Lord as our prayer life matures, but it does mean as we spiritually mature, our prayers also ought to mature. Read the verses below and identify instructions from these passages related to “how” we are to pray.

Matthew 6:9-13

 9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

As you consider these scriptures remember, maturity in prayer, like all areas of the Christian walk, is a process that takes time, practice and most importantly, the Holy Spirit’s work. Spiritual maturity is not a linear process. Instead, there will be times of growth and times of stagnation and even times of regression. It can be easy for prayers to turn into: “Thank you, thank you, help me, help me, I’m sorry, I’m sorry”. This is not a bad or wrong prayer, but prayer is so much more.

Using Matthew 6:9-13 as a model for how to pray. The Lord starts with recognizing who God is and lifting His name up. From verse 9 we can see the importance of spending time in prayer where we are honoring the Lord and in so doing reminding ourselves of who God is. Verse 10 focuses on several things including: 1) praying that God’s kingdom would come 2) there would be places on earth where God’s instruction is being sought and followed and 3) that hearts would be under the rule and reign of God and this would lead to living as Christ modeled. This is followed by requests for food, forgiveness and protection. The prayer ends with an acknowledgement of God being God and He is the rightful king.

Other places in scripture teach additional truths about how to pray. For example, many of the Psalms teach that prayer can be an open expression of hurt, questions, and rehearsing truths about God.

Practical Ideas:

One of the keys to a vibrant prayer life is engaging our hearts and minds in prayer rather than going on auto pilot. We often pray about the same things day-after-day and have a difficult time coming up with new topics to pray about or new ways to pray for the same things. Sometimes changing up the method we are using can help expand our prayers. Some of the ideas below can help us consider additional topics to pray about while others might help give ideas of how to pray about the same things in different ways.

  1. Pray scripture.
  2. Pray for a different group of people each day of the week. (Example: Monday: Family, Tuesday: Friends, Wednesday: Church Leadership, Thursday: Missionaries, Friday: The Unconverted)
  3. Share specific prayer requests weekly with someone.
  4. Write out your prayer.
  5. Pray out loud.
  6. Find a good time of the day to pray. (Example: Set aside 15 minutes a day to pray.)

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are specific ways you can mirror the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6?

For example:

      1. To honor the Lord?
      2. Pray His kingdom come?
      3. To make requests known?
      4. Remind yourself of God’s “bigness”?
  1. List some things we learn about prayer from the following verses (1 Peter 3:7, James 5:16, Luke 18:1-5, 2 Corinthians 12:8).
  2. Many of the “how to” prayer pieces are about overarching attitudes or characteristics of biblical prayer such as faith, boldness, openly expressing joys and sorrows. What are other attitudes or themes of “how to” pray?
  3. Share some preconceived notions regarding prayer that do not seem to be explicitly taught in scripture (possible example – eyes must be closed for prayer).
  4. Identify some topics/subgroups which you personally would like to incorporate into your prayers more (i.e. The Lost, Church Leaders, Political Leaders, Friends, Professors, Honor to the Lord, God’s Kingdom Come).
  5. Which of the six “practical ideas” listed above would you like to try this week?
  6. Scriptures to Consider: Matthew 6:5-13, James 5:16, Luke 18:1-5, Hebrews 4:16, Matthew 26:36-46

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Further Resources:

Praying the Bible: interview with Donald Whitney
Bible Gateway interviewed Donald S. Whitney about his book, Praying the Bible.

ISU Bible Study on Prayer
Brian Sutter speaks on topic of prayer at the ISU Bible Study.