– Pastor Brandon’s Article from the August 2015 Newsletter
Do you ever struggle with how to pray? I often wonder, “What should I say? How should I say it?” Sometimes I hear others pray, and I think, “Wow! that person sure knows how to talk with God. I wish I could pray like that.” Now, it’s important to understand that effective prayer is not about flowery speech or fancy phrases. The most eloquent language falls flat if it is insincere. Thankfully, we don’t have to be the most articulate orators to secure God’s attention. He hears us when we earnestly call on him, and he delights in hearing from his children as we express our hearts to him. Still, at times, I feel like my own prayers are puny – not so much because of the words I use, but because of the heart behind them. There are moments when all I muster is a “Lord, help ’em,” and I don’t know what to say or how to pray beyond that. Again, uttered with a sincere heart that kind of prayer can be powerful and effective. Yet, I still wonder what kinds of things I ought to pray for as I direct my heart toward God.
In times like this, I’m so thankful for the boldness of the disciples who unashamedly asked the Lord to teach them to pray. He responded with a simple prayer that glorified our heavenly Father and acknowledged his power over all things. He taught us that God knows what we need before we ask and that we can depend on him for our daily needs, spiritual restoration, and deliverance from evil (Matthew 6:5-13). I’m glad that we don’t need to impress God with our speech.
In addition to this teaching in the gospels, we find numerous models of prayer throughout Scripture. There are many passages that help us understand how to pray. One such example is Jesus’ prayer in John 17. We can also look at the Psalms as they are incredible illustrations of people pouring out their hearts to God in praise and thanksgiving and crying out to the Lord for help in times of distress and great need. Likewise, we discover other examples of prayer in the letters of the New Testament. I think these are easy to skim over either because their language is usually somewhat complicated or because we are looking for some specific command to us. However, I find that slowing down and taking the time to examine these moments of prayer can yield tremendous benefit.
One such instance occurs in the letter to the Ephesians. Here’s Paul says,
15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
Let’s break this down and take a look at Paul’s prayer includes:
1. He gives thanks for the believers at Ephesus. He is grateful for their sincere faith and their genuine love for one another.
2. He asks God to pour out upon them his Holy Spirit who gives wisdom for life and reveals truth. The desired result of this revelation is a greater knowledge of God and a deeper relationship with him.
3. He prays that they will have a greater understanding of the hope that awaits them, the abundant glory they have in Christ, and the awesome power of God that is at work in them.
4. He reflects on God’s power at work in us. That power is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead and seated him on the heavenly throne to rule over all creation. If God does this, then we can have assurance that God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. (This prayer is tied to another prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21. Check it out!)
Examples such as these help to inform my own prayer life. They give me ideas about words to say, but, more importantly, they show me where my heart should be when I pray for myself and for others. As you can see, all of the truths that Paul mentions are needed in our own lives, and we can use these concepts as we pray for others as well.
So, when I find myself struggling, I look for models of prayer in God’s word, and I ask the Holy Spirit to help me. I invite him to lead and guide me through prayer, to direct my heart, and to give me the words to say as I intercede for all the saints. I pray this helps you as you approach your heavenly Father with freedom and confidence.