How to Pray
My daughter Sara loves to make soup. At first her soup didn’t have any flavor because it consisted of boiled potatoes and carrots without any seasoning. Being the good father I am, I ate it. I tried to be encouraging, but she and I both knew it was lacking something. The second time she made soup, she added potatoes, carrots, and an entire cup of seasoning salt. She was getting closer, but it had way too much seasoning salt in it to even attempt consumption. She kept at it and, little by little, Sara started adding the right ingredients, in the right portions, and cooking it for just the right amount of time; some potatoes, a few carrots, a fair amount of chicken, chicken bouillon, and a touch of season salt… and voila! The best soup in the world! It just took her a while to figure it out.
Our spiritual life is like a recipe. In order to grow in our faith, we must incorporate different means of fellowshipping, worshipping, and connecting with Christ – all in proper ratios. Your meat and potatoes (the base of your spiritual walk) might be attending church and reading devotional books, but without prayer, it isn’t going to taste right. If you want to take the next step in your faith, you are going to have to learn how to season your spiritual life with prayer.
I am convinced that through prayer, God’s power can change circumstances and relationships. God’s power can help you face every problem, fight every battle, and finish strong. I believe that God can heal physical disease, emotional distress, remove marital obstructions, and meet financial needs. We tap into God’s presence and power when we learn how to pray.
Jesus’ disciples intently watched him pray and when he finished, they held their gaze at him and said: Lord, teach us to pray. There was something so authentic, so transformative, so peaceful and powerful about Jesus’ prayer life that even the closest people to him asked for advice on how to pray. He gave it to them.
“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘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 today 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 the evil one.” Matthew 6:9-13
If you want to regain the power of prayer in your life, utilize the prayer pattern Jesus teaches in Matthew 6:9-13. Jesus didn’t tell us to recite this prayer over and over. He says this is how you should pray, not what you should pray. In his prayer, Jesus reveals what you need to know in order to have a deeper connection with God in your prayer life. I created an acronym based on this prayer to energize my prayer life. It helps keep me focused when I pray. The acronym is PAPER and it comes right out of this passage that teaches us how to pray.
P - for Praise. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” When we praise God, we worship Him for who He is, for being awesome, powerful, righteous and just. We praise him for his love, forgiveness, and grace.
A - for alignment. “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” When we pray for alignment we are asking the Holy Spirit to help us align our lives with God’s precepts provided to us in His word, the Bible. The Ah-ha moment is when we realize that it’s really about aligning our lives with His will, not asking Him to align His will with our will.
P - for provision. “Give us today our daily bread.” Pray for your needs and wants. There is no request too big or too small for God. I open up to God about my own life and what I need by sharing my aches, pains, and problems with Him. I also share my hopes and dreams with Him because God knows me inside and out. God wants me to pray for specific needs that I have.
E - for exoneration. “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors” When we pray for exoneration, we are asking God to forgive us of our sins and help us to forgive others. When I confess, I see the cross. It reminds me that Jesus died on it for my sins. When I look at the cross, I find it easy to see my own sins which I confess to God and restore my relationship with Him.
R - for rescue. “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” We need God to rescue us from the temptations we face. All of us face temptations and the Holy Spirit gives us the power to resist them. If you don’t ask God to help you when you are tempted, you will be more likely to give in. Romans 8 talks about living by the power of the Spirit and how you need to tap into it to get through your challenges. Jesus wants us to come to Him as real and as transparent as we can be.
It is possible for you and me to integrate the practice of prayer into the rhythms of our lives. It is possible to grow closer to Christ and to deepen our love for him and knowledge of him. It is possible to pray expectantly, trusting that God will provide an answer, even if His answer is not what we expected. When you pray, think of the acronym PAPER to help you connect with God on a deeper level.
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