"How to Pray"
A survey run a couple of years ago suggests Christians spend more time praying
about their family and friends than for any other prayer topic. Yet knowing what to pray and how to pray for them is not always
easy. Here are some thoughts that may help.
Firstly, we shouldn't worry about how we phrase our prayers. It can be easy to
feel that our prayers need to be word-perfect, and phrased in that quaint Olde English found in the King James Bible and the
old Prayer Books. God wants us to talk to him in ordinary, everyday conversational language, and we can lift our prayers to
him without worrying about our grammar or getting the right phrases.
Our approach to prayer is more important than the words we use. Initially we may
begin praying by bringing a "shopping list" of requests to God. In one sense, this is helpful - generally it is good to be
as specific as we can be. Although God knows the finest detail of every situation, we should nevertheless ask God for specific
things. What those things are requires some careful thought. Our aim should be to pray for what God wants for them, and the
things that they desire for themselves, rather than for what we would like them to have, or to be. This means that it can
be quite helpful to give some space to God during our prayer time, and ask Him to place on our mind the particular needs of
the people we are praying for.
The Gospels tell us that when we ask for things in Jesus' name then the Father
will grant us our request. "In Jesus' name" means things that are in accordance with God's will and character - we can pray
as hard as we like to win the lottery, but I judge our prayer is unlikely to lead us to riches! Perceiving more and more of
God's character and nature will help us pray the things that are on God's agenda, and away from the shopping list of requests
that we may have started with.
It is fine to pray for our basic needs, and Jesus teaches us in the Lord's Prayer
to ask the Father for our daily bread, or to satisfy our daily needs. It is probably unhelpful to pray for material desires
to be satisfied. Rather our prayer might focus on the character of the person that we are praying for, asking God to make
them more like him, that they might grow in the fruit of the spirit : love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, generosity,
faithfulness and self-control.
As we pray it can be helpful to have a picture of the person we are praying for
in our minds. If your imagination finds it difficult to picture people you pray for, why not build up a photo album of people
you pray for, and use this as a prompt to prayer.