Jesus is the best teacher of prayer and our best example in prayer. His counsel on how to conduct personal prayer is simple and concise:
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father,
who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matt.
Notice the 5 basic principles for prayer contained in this short verse:
When you pray—a time for prayer
Go into your room—a place for prayer
Close the door—privacy for prayer
Pray to your Father—a specific Person in mind—your Father in heaven
Then your Father will reward you—God answers prayer!
Because Jesus knew that many people prayed to idols and false gods, He clearly identified the Father in heaven as the One to be addressed in prayer.
A Christian writer comments about this passage:
Christ's lessons in regard to
prayer should be carefully considered. There is a divine science in prayer, and the
illustration brings to view principles that all need to understand. He shows what is the
true spirit of prayer, He teaches the necessity of perseverance in presenting our requests
to God, and assures us of His willingness to hear and answer prayer.
Ellen White, Christ's Object Lessons, page 142.
Jesus gives us another ground rule for prayer in John 15:16:
Then the Father
will give you whatever you ask in My name.
John 15:16, last part. We
must not only pray to the Father, but also in the name of Jesus, our Elder Brother, our
The idea of talking to Someone you cannot see with your physical sight or hear with your physical ears is sometimes daunting. Although there is a science to the art of prayer (conditions for answers to prayer: humility of heart, confession of sins, faith, etc.) yet prayer is the channel of an individual relationship with God. God loves our individuality—so we don't need to recite written prayers but can speak them from our own hearts, speaking as though face-to-face with a friend.
Like speaking with a friend, talking with God can differ from time to time. Sometimes we pray in great immediate need, sometimes it is because we have sensed God calling us to praise Him. Many of us come at a regular time each day to receive forgiveness, to learn more of Him, seek guidance. There is no one-way to pray. You can't describe the perfect way to pray. As long as you come to Him with a humble, contrite heart, He hears you.
Different personalities and cultures may find different ways to make prayer more meaningful to them. Sometimes it helps all of us to better sense God's presence when we experiment with various ways to pray. Here are a few suggestions of ways that can easily lead into a deepening heart-felt devotional prayer time.
Many Christians find that a guide not only helps them find more meaning and enjoyment in daily prayer, but also helps them in understanding God. Here are a few suggestions of prayer guides:
Some people receive great blessing in praying through the four steps of the acronym of ACTS: adoration (acknowledging God as the Creator of the Universe), confession (confessing our own sinfulness and weakness, specific sins), thanksgiving (thanking God for His personal benefits to us–forgiveness, family, and material comforts), and supplication (asking for what we need.)
Portions of scripture can also be used as guides, such as the passage we know as The Lord's Prayer (Matthew 7:9-13) The concepts expressed in this passage can be put into our words and our time. The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17), the Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18), and many other passages can be used in the same way as a guide for prayer.
Sanctuary Prayer is my personal favorite prayer guide for morning devotions because God has taught me so much about Himself through this model. When God instructed Moses to liberate the Hebrew slaves from Egypt to become His chosen people, over four hundred years had dimmed their memories of the true God. They were ignorant, steeped in Egyptian idolatry and traditions. They needed instruction and demonstration. God set up the wilderness sanctuary to teach the people about the true God, to make the one true God real to them, to demonstrate to them how He saves each human soul, and to give them teaching tools to share the gospel with the nations around them. God had chosen this people, not to be an exclusive group, but to be teachers to include the whole world in Christianity.
The services of the sanctuary centered around the ministry of the coming Redeemer, Jesus. It is true that those antitypical (pointing forward) services ended when they met fulfillment at Christ’s crucifixion, yet His intercession and judgment ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary (of which the wilderness sanctuary was only a copy) is still going on.
Following the steps the priests took daily in their sanctuary work helps me consciously co-operate with our High Priest, Jesus, in His intercession and ministry for each of us personally in the Heavenly Sanctuary. (See Hebrews 7:23-25)
This visual aid illustrated in the earthly example opens our minds to the extent of the redemptive work necessary for our salvation. It is prophetic as it points to the coming Redeemer, the continual intercession of our High Priest, and the culmination of sin. The sinless life Jesus lived here on earth, the death He died to pay the price for our sins, are completed. But God has not left us alone since then. As a High Priest in the Heavenly Sanctuary, His ministry for us continues. He hears our prayers; He guides, teaches, and disciplines us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the angels. Understanding of scripture is opened to our minds. We become intimate with God. Eyes of faith look forward to Christ’s second coming, the end of sin and a sinless eternity before us.
Some people find their quiet time with God more meaningful when they sit at a desk or table with pen in hand composing letters to God. Often these letters are written in a daily journal that can be reread to remember the needs expressed, the sorrow or joy put into words, the contrition of a heart lifted up to God. This is not a diary—but a journal written to God. The form they use is as individual as the people they are. A friend sent me this verse that expresses her use of journaling prayers:
May I write You letters God
To tell You how I feel?
May I put on paper
The thoughts that are so real?
The ache that's surging in my heart
The tears that seem to flow-
Am I telling You something new
Or do You already know?
To say with ink and pen
That You know my every care,
Are these just letters that I write
Or do You call it prayer?
This is a favorite way for many people to have their morning devotional time with God, especially if they live in the country or have access to a walking or hiking trail. Carry along a small Bible or New Testament. Scripture should be the entrance to each prayer time. Prayerwalking may be combined with most of the above prayer guides.
Set aside an hour or two for this retreat.
(Great if taken alone, but you may include a friend.)
You may need to drive several miles to reach the right spot for this retreat. Put your Bible in your backpack along with any other spiritual books you might want to read, plus a bottle of water. Seek out a quiet trail in the country, through the woods, by a lake, or at a campground. As you begin walking, find a spot where you can stop for a moment and gaze on the beauty of this quiet place. Read Ps. 42:1 as you consciously long for a meeting with God. Let your desire for God become a thirst for Him.
As you walk on (1) let your heart turn to praise. Read Ps. 103:1-5 and apply it to your relationship with God. Openly praise Him as you view His beauties around you. Find a spot where you can sit for a moment–or kneel–and (2) read Psalm 51:16 and 17, then verses 1, 2. Make these verses your prayer as you offer God your broken and contrite heart and ask for forgiveness and cleansing. (3) Walk on rejoicing in your forgiveness, quoting 1 John 1:9. Turn your heart to remembering God’s promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit.
(4) Pause a moment and read Luke 11:13 as you ask God for the fullness of the Holy Spirit for yourself and your family. Read Gal. 5:22-25. Walk on consciously keeping step with the Spirit. Smile–even laugh out loud in the joy of the Lord.
(5) Find a place to sit and read Jer. 15:16, imagining sitting at a table eating with Jesus. Remember how He fed the 5000 and 4000. Ask Him to feed you, too, as you eat of His words. Enjoy the Clear Word’s paraphrase of Song of Solomon, 2:4, “He invited me to a banquet at the palace and told everyone there that He loved me.” Repeat aloud: God loves me!
Walk on until you find a spot that seems appropriate to visualize the Heavenly Sanctuary and Jesus standing by the altar of intercession praying for His people. (6) Join Jesus as He prays. Read 1 Tim. 2:1-4, praying for the salvation of those who do not know Jesus. Read Isa. 62:6, 7, asking God to make you a faithful watchman praying for the lost. Mention the names of those who are closest to your heart.
(7) Read Heb. 10:23-25 and turn your heart once more to praising God for His blessings as you continue your walk. Read Col. 2:1-3, rejoicing in your life in Christ. Sing a song of praise to God–either a chorus or song you remember or make up your own words and music as you complete your walk. Listen for bird songs, smile in the joy of the Lord.
No words make
only a heart
You may speak
God can understand,
He made the languages,
to make you
of your desire
No words make
only a heart