As a teacher at a private Christian school, I am required to (and I desire to) teach my students how to pray.
How do I pray?
If you Google the phrase “how to pray,” over 130 million hits come up with everything from videos, to tips, to podcasts, to online seminars that cost only three installments of $29.95.
There are many resources online that give wise direction, discerning tips, and even offer hope in desperate times. At Unlocking the Bible, we are blessed to have resources that offer a variety of insights to into what prayer is and how to pray.
Yet, I still find it hard to pray consistently or specifically. While trying to relay a simple way to teach prayer to kids, I have found some ways to make prayer relevant and alive in my busy and sometimes tedious life. I say “sometimes tedious” because I often find that when I am seeking God’s plan for my life, praying consistently and with the hope that Christ offers, I find my life anything but boring.
If I am truly doing what God as called me to do, no matter if I am loading the dishwasher for the third time in one day or sending a follow-up email about a book proposal, I can feel the anticipation of a life lived by his power in each decision I make.
I want the gospel to come alive and be fresh in my prayer life. So I have found three keys to making prayer alive in my every day.
Key #1: Be Present in Your Prayers
When I was young, I learned how to give thanks for our food by praying, “Come Lord Jesus, be our Guest, and let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.”
Our family prayed it before every meal. Maybe you do that as well. It is a beautiful prayer with a message of thankfulness and an awareness of God’s power to bless. When I taught my students this prayer and they said it back to me, I saw that it had been merely memorized with no real meaning in what was being said. When I asked the kids what they were asking of God, I got only blank stares. They were saying the words but had no context for them. They needed to be present in their prayers by realizing they were talking to the Creator God, not just reciting some words.
Please do not take this to mean that all memorized prayers are empty. I will be the first to say that memorized prayers can be a beautiful thing. Every time I pray the Lord’s Prayer, it brings a sense of hope and comfort because I am listening to the words while I am praying them and not just repeating the words.
Key #2: Be Creative with Your Prayers
I wanted my students to know that prayer was not only found in a bowed head at meals or at bedtime. Prayer can be in a song, written in a journal, or it can be a whispering of quick thanks to God when I wake in the morning and I see my husband next to me. Prayer is any time that I am talking to God – coming to him with my needs, questions, thankfulness, and even my disappointments.
The Bible is full of prayers that were said to the Lord and by the Lord. Prayer is a way to communicate with God. Writing out these prayers can be a wonderful tool to get the words of these prayers in your heart, but they are also a way to “set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2).
Key #3: Be Authentic in Your Prayers
I remember a story that a pastor friend told me about a time when he was with an older, quite well-known pastor at a large pastor’s conference. He was asked to pray for a meal in a small group, and he wanted to impress this famous pastor. So he prayed what he thought was the most eloquent, detailed, and quite the longest prayer that he had ever done in a group setting.
After he said, “Amen,” the older, much wiser, pastor looked at him and simply said, “Someone obviously did not meet with the Lord earlier today,” and went on to eat his meal.
It was said in a matter of jest, yet with some wisdom. The younger man was not only thanking God for the meal, he was adding everything he could think of in order to impress those around him. He was not worried about connecting with God, he was worried about what his own character looked like.
It reminded me of the verse Matthew 6:5:
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 be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
When I come to the realization of my sinful nature and what Christ did for me at the cross, I know that I can be authentic in my prayers because of what he did. I desire to connect with him in order to tap into his amazing power and to set my hope on him. This gives me clarity into what I am doing for him, as well as joy in my every day walk with him.
Prayer is a personal thing, but the fact is, we are connecting to the One who tells the waves how far to wash into shore. That is power! When we are present, creative, and authentic with our prayers, the seemingly tedious becomes anything but boring.