The Posture of Prayer: How Do We Pray
In stopping to think about what prayer really is– the depth, the importance, the power of what takes place, the connection that happens when you open up your heart and pour it out to the one who created the universe, the one who knows all things, the one who is powerful over all things, the one who holds all things together, and is the one who created you and knows each and every facet of your life… prayer can seem like a daunting endeavor. Doesn’t this almost seem kind of surreal? We are talking about talking to the creator of the universe. What a privilege it is, because of Jesus Christ, that we even get to come before a holy and mighty God and say anything, and not just die in his presence.
So, prayer… how do we do it?
Is there a right or wrong way to pray?
In short, the answer is yes. There is a right and wrong way to pray, but it’s not meant to be complicated. God indicates in his word that the way he wants us to pray is really not about our words. The way he wants us to pray has more to do with the state of our hearts, than the content of our sentences. The state and posture of our heart, when it comes to prayer, is greatly affected by many things. One of the biggest things that will impact the way we pray is how we see God, and what we believe about him. If we see him as great, all-powerful, and all-knowing, then we know his true character and we trust him. And because we trust him, we pray in a very different way than if we doubt him or don’t know his character.
The other major part of what God desires from us in prayer, is for us to be our authentic. He wants us to be honest, real, and pray from a place of deep respect and humble submission.
In Matthew 6: 5-13, Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray:
“5 And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do no heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Within these verses, Christ tells us from the beginning what not to do. He does not want us to pray for show, for the approval of men (verse 5). He cares about what really resides in our hearts. Typically, those heartfelt, transparent prayers– the ones that come from deep inside you– they usually take place in private. It makes sense that the next verse (Matt 6:6) would say, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.” God wants you to come to him with everything, honestly and openly, casting your cares on him.
Jesus continues on, showing the disciples how to pray: verse 9: “Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” Our first thoughts are to honor and praise God for who he is. The definition of hallowed, or hallow, is to “honor as holy.” Our high and mighty God, whose ways are so far above our own, is to be shown honor, before anything. Our hearts are to meditate on the truth of who he is, and take comfort in the fact that he has it all in his hands.
The next verses of this template, show our love and submission to him. Verse 10: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” I think for many of us, this is a very hard thing to pray because God’s will is not something that we can control… and let’s face it, most of us want to feel like we are in control of the outcomes in our lives. If we are honest, much of the time, we are probably praying for things that we want, and may not necessarily be God’s will. In addition to this, in much of what we encounter in life, many of us are probably wondering, “what on earth is God’s will”?
Are the the things we are praying for in the will of God, or are these things just things we want that we think will make life more enjoyable or more tolerable in the moment? When we pray for his will to be done, we show him that we trust him, love him, and know his ways are far above our own.
In the last few verses, Christ gives us a template for how to pray for the needs in our lives. He is succinct, and he is direct. He shows us how to ask for our needs for today, and how to deal with issues of sin and the heart. All of it is honest. All of it is open and real. This template that Jesus gives us in showing us how to pray, honors God for who he is, shows our father how much we love and trust him. It also addresses the real day to day needs in our lives, and shows us how to deal with the unseen issues that plague our hearts.
So, how do we pray? We pray like Jesus taught us to! We pray with genuinely honest, open, submitted hearts, willing to follow him wherever he takes us. There so is much more that can be said on this topic, but hopefully this is an encouraging first step in how we are to communicate with our great Father, who loves us beyond what we can comprehend.