How to Pray
How to Pray
Many of the blessings God wants you to enjoy, blessings that potentially could be realized in the lives of others, will never be realized and will never be enjoyed unless we pray. I think all Christians know they are supposed to pray, all Christians want to pray, but many of God’s people, if they are completely frank and transparent about the issue, would have to admit that their prayer life is anywhere from mediocre to non existent. If you can spell the word “pray,” hopefully it will help your prayer life become more effective and inspire you to pray more consistently. Psalm 100 brings us to the first letter in the word “pray,” which is PRAISE. That’s the way we should start. Psalm 100:1,Now in verse 2 it says, “Come before His presence with singing.” In verse 4, I like the words “enter into.” In other words, this is how you start. This is how you enter. When you want to come to God, you start with thanksgiving. You start with singing. You start with praise, or as the Message Bible says, “Enter with the password, ‘Thank you.’”
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.” It begins with a note of praise, a note of glorifying God and blessing His name. Several things happen when you start to praise God. It puts your focus in the right place. It takes your focus off of yourself, off of your problems, and off of the circumstances that surround you, and it puts your focus on God… where it should be… Who is your answer. It also brings God’s presence. Psalm 22:3 says that God inhabits the praises of His people. In Isaiah, chapter 64, it declares that God meets the one who rejoices. In the Book of James in the fourth chapter, we are given the principle that God draws near to the person that draws near to Him. I don’t know a better way to draw near to God than through worship and praise. It brings his presence. Sometimes when His presence comes, it comes in a tangible, discernible way. God always comes when you praise Him. He always comes. He always meets the one who rejoices. He always draws nigh to the person that draws nigh to him. He always inhabits the praises of His people, because He says that He will do it.And when you praise during those times when you feel nothing and nothing looks different, praise may become a sacrifice, and it may be a test of your faith. But, my friend, it does bring the presence of God, which causes something else to happen: It makes the devil shut up, which I think is a great fringe benefit. Look with me at Psalm 8:2, Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength, Because of Your enemies, That You may silence the enemy and the avenger. Now Jesus actually quoted this verse of Scripture in Matthew 21:16. The children were praising Him, and the religious leaders said, “Tell them to be quiet.” And Jesus said, “Haven’t you read…” And He quoted Psalm 8:2, “Out of the mouth of babes…” But when Jesus quoted it, He interpreted it. And being the Living Word, He has the right to interpret the written word. He said, “Out of the mouth of babes You have perfected praise.” That’s the way Jesus interpreted this verse, telling us that praise is the ordained strength of God. And when you begin to praise God, it
says it will silence the enemy. That Hebrew word “silence” doesn’t mean to just make quiet. It means that, but it means more. It means to desist from activity. Here’s how it works: You start to praise God, God shows up, and the devil has to shut up and shut down. I think that’s wonderful, but listen carefully: That is not the focus. What it does to the devil is just a bonus for us. That’s a fringe benefit. The focus of our praise is God.
R” in the word P-R-A-Y. “R” stands for REPENT. This is where you search your heart and repent of anything that has come between you and God. The Bible says in Psalm 66:18, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.” So if there is known sin in your life, you should repent, and do it quickly. Don’t remain in broken fellowship with God, and God will certainly forgive you and cleanse you. But having said that, that’s not exactly the type of repentance I’m talking about here. The kind of repentance I’m talking about has more to do with the type of sin mentioned in Psalm 19:12. It opens up with a question. It says, “Who can understand His errors?” In other words, you won’t always know when you do something wrong. You won’t always know sometimes when you get into an area that is not right. Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. 13 Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, And I shall be innocent of great transgression. Even though it may not be something you’re totally aware that is wrong, secret faults and presumptuous sins can still have dominion over you. Sometimes we allow attitudes to get into our heart that at the time we don’t realize are really not consistent with God’s character. Sometimes all of us do and say things that are detrimental not only to us, but they harm others. Yet at the time, we don’t realize the effects of our words and of our actions. It’s something that you don’t readily recognize that you’ve sinned, and yet it still taints us. It’s during that time that I’m actually speaking of here where you wait before God and say, “God, put the spotlight on anything in my life that has raised a barrier between You and me, and I will repent of it.” And it’s not as if you had committed some great premeditated sin; but either through ignorance or just a lack of sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, you’ve sort of allowed this road dirt to cling to your soul, and it’s caused a barrier to come between you and God. I think sometimes that home can be the worst area for us where presumptuous sins or secret
faults take place, because we’ve become so familiar with one another. We can become short with a wife or hostile towards the husband or short with the kids or take one another for granted and not really realize it. Sometimes I see husbands and wives and, there is this hostility just under the surface. All the time it’s popping out, and they’re reacting to one another with this underlying hostility, and they speak in a tone of voice and they say things they would never dream of saying to a co-worker, but there is just this familiarity. It’s not that they’re consciously doing it, but they have just slipped into this area. They may not realize it, but it’s affecting their relationship with God. It’s affecting their communication with God. We need to come before God and say, “God, show me any area of my life.” You will be surprised at some of the things He will show you. Now just by way of an example, and there are many we could use, verse 13 here from the Message Bible says this: “Keep me from stupid sins, from thinking I can take over Your work.” That’s an area it’s very easy to slip into. Start off in the spirit, wind up in the flesh; start off trusting God and relying on Him. You’ve got a little bit of experience under your belt now, and you know
how to do this thing. So instead of praying and truly relying on God and trusting in Him, you’re just sort of doing it yourself. I know that a lot of ministers can fall into that, almost taking over God’s work. And it’s not so much an utter reliance upon God, but just unconsciously they sort of know how things work, and they don’t realize it can affect their relationship and their prayer life with God. It affects communication. “R” is for REPENT. You just search your own heart and ask God to put the spotlight on it, and repent of anything that He shows you. And, friend, when your heart is clean, as it says in First John, chapter 3, Beloved, if our own hearts do not condemn us, then we have confidence toward God, and whatever we ask we receive from Him.” Then you can pray with confidence; then you can ask with confidence. “A” is for ASK. Look at Matthew 7:7. I love these words of Jesus. Jesus said, “Ask, and maybe you’ll get it.” He said, “Ask, and maybe you’ll get an answer one-fifth of the time. Anymore than that would be abnormal.” “Ask, but don’t expect anything.” No, Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 “Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?
10 “Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” Let us be careful not to water the words of Jesus down or somehow try and explain them away or even over-complicate them. He meant just what He said: “Ask, and it will be given to you. Everyone who asks receives. How much more will your Father in heaven give good things to
those who ask Him!” Jesus meant just what He said. In fact, look in John’s gospel in the 14th chapter. We want to look at some verses where Jesus makes the Father’s willingness to answer our prayer very, very clear. And in chapters 14 through 17, Jesus is spending His last hours with the disciples before He is going to be arrested. So these are very important things upon His heart that He Is trying to impress upon their hearts. And we’ll find again and again He talks about prayer and, actually, the simplicity of prayer. He puts it in the simplest of terms again and again. John 14:13, “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. That’s pretty wide open, isn’t it. The only condition here is that it brings glory to God… “…that the Father may be glorified…” So it has got to bring glory to God. Look in John 15:7, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. Look in John 15:16, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. Again, pretty wide open. Whatever you desire, it will be done for you. Whatever you ask He may give you. The only condition we find here is that it be consistent and in harmony with His word. Jesus said, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you…” So it needs to glorify God, and it needs to be consistent… it needs to be in harmony with the Bible. Look with me at John 16:23, “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. 24 “Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. I mean, He is commanding us to ask. And here’s another condition: It’s got to make you happy: “That your joy may be full.” The last letter “Y” stands for YIELD. This is where you wait and listen and assume the posture that says, “God, is there anything that You want to say to me?” It may be in regards to something you’ve been just praying about, or it may not be related to anything at all. But it’s where you say, “God, do You have any instructions for me?” Or, “Is there anything You want me to change?” Now be careful when you pray that because God will definitely speak to you. “Anything at all that You want to talk to me about, anything You want to say to me, God?” You assume this posture of being yielded and wait quietly before Him. You will be surprised at some of the things that come up in your heart. It may be anything from, “You need to spend more time with your daughter” to “take your wife out on a date” to “bake your neighbor a pie and build a bridge over which the gospel can travel” to “spend more time praising Me” to “show your gratitude and appreciation for those that have been helping you in your life.” But God will talk to you. There is a learning curve where you learn to discern the Father’s voice. But, friend, you can. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and they follow Me.” It’s the most natural thing for you to discern and understand God’s voice. And yet when it’s new to you, you’re going, “Guy, did I just make that up? Or, was that God?” But you know what? You will learn to discern God’s voice as much as my family has learned to discern my voice. I can call my family from anywhere in the world, and I try and disguise my voice, which I don’t know why, but I try and do that a lot, and it never works! They are so familiar with my voice. And you can become that familiar with God when He’s talking to you, even when it’s the slightest and the faintest impression. It will have the fingerprints of God on it, and you’ll recognize it. Look at Psalm 37:4, Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord. He’ll give you the desires of your heart.” Now the Hebrew translation for “delight” literally means to become soft or pliable. It is when we assume a yielded position and posture before God that says, “God, here I am. I’m the clay, You’re the Potter. I’m going to yield to Your touch. I’m soft and pliable. Anything You want to say to me… correction, instruction, encouragement… Lord, here I am. Any way that You want to move me.” And when we assume that posture before God, when we delight ourselves in the Lord, when we
take that position of “Lord, here I am, whatever You want to say,” what God does is He begins to put desires in your heart. It doesn’t just mean that God will just give you whatever you want. But when you assume that posture, you can expect God to begin to put impressions and desires in your heart. And you will find that, many times, God will lead you through all those desires and through those impressions. I have desires for certain things in my life that I know did not come from me at all, but it has to do with God’s plan and His destiny for my life. And most of those came in those quiet times waiting on God, and the desire has grown. There wasn’t a booming voice. Something came into his heart. When you take that posture of being soft, pliable, and yielded before God, God will put things in your heart. Sometimes it may be as quick and as faint as just a bit of perfume on the breeze that’s there for a moment and then it’s gone. But you’ll learn to recognize it as God. And sometimes the greatest miracles are attached to the smallest and flimsiest of impressions. God wants all of His children to learn to discern His voice in that way. So if you can spell P-R-A-Y, whether you are in a hotel on business somewhere, whether it’s after you’ve laid the kids down and you’re kind of tired… you just want to kneel down next to the bed for a little while, get up a little early in the morning or carve out some time during the day… praise, repent, ask, and yield.