A while ago, I asked friends to suggest topics that they wanted to be featured on the blog. One response was in relation to how we should pray; as I pondered about what to write, I realised that the how is less important than the why.
“Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:12-13)
In this chapter, Jeremiah sends a letter to the Jews in Babylonian captivity. The letter serves as practical guidance about how God would like them to spend their time there (v4-9). However, God also declares that the captivity will be capped at a pre-determined 70 years (v10). For a Jew, far from their homeland and acutely aware that their captivity is self-inflicted (Jeremiah 25:1-13), the promises in v11-13 are incredibly reassuring.
God is near to you even when you feel far from Him.
I used to think that sin separates me from God irreparably. Thankfully, I now have a better understanding of God’s mercy. If even a few Israelites shared my faulty thinking, they would have spent their time in captivity reluctant to speak to a God who they assumed hated them for their wrongdoing. The promises in this chapter were not just reassuring, they were an invitation to draw close to Him in spite of their feelings.
How Do I Pray?
The Bible mentions various postures and all are equally acceptable, for example:
- Bowing – Exodus 34:8-9
- Kneeling – 1 Kings 8:54; Ezra 9:5; Luke 22:41; Acts 9:40
- Prostration – Deuteronomy 9:25; Joshua 7:6-9; Matthew 26:39
- Sitting – 2 Samuel 7:18
- Standing – Nehemiah 9:5; Mark 11:25; Luke 9:28-32
It’s important to remember that the method matters less than your motives; lying prostrate for an hour doesn’t mean you’ve ‘accomplished’ more than someone who stood for a sincere five minute prayer.
Prayers that only focus on supplication (requests) are one dimensional. It limits prayer to a transaction: you tell Him what you want and He (hopefully) delivers. That interaction doesn’t foster intimacy because prayer isn’t supposed to be transactional. By taking the time to do more than just rattle off a list of asks, you allow your self to engage with prayer to a much fuller capacity. The ACTS prayer is a great way to remind yourself to pray more broadly:
Although not every prayer requires these four components, it might help you to stop inadvertently treating God like a genie.
Why Should I Pray?
Too often we pray because we want something, not someone: God. As cheesy as it sounds, God is the answer to all your problems. Notice that I didn’t say prayer, I said God. Praying for any of the reasons below will most likely guarantee a short-lived, unfulfilling prayer life:
- Christian duty: “I have to” – God doesn’t need your prayers. You need your prayers!
- Others do it: “I should do it, too” – copying their actions with different motives doesn’t guarantee the same experience
- Routine: “I’m used to it” – autopilot prayers are the enemy of true engagement
Sometimes we equate God’s usefulness with the sum total of answered prayer requests. What if He doesn’t answer your prayer in the way you expected? You may not always get a ‘yes’, but that isn’t an excuse to stop praying. One thing you can always count on is His presence in response to genuine seeking.
Seeking comes naturally only if you have a sincere desire to be close to Him.
In Jeremiah 29:13, the Hebrew word for seek is baqash which means ‘to search out’ or ‘strive after.’ To me, that implies persistent effort because you see value in spending time with Him. Finding God isn’t a one-prayer thing. It mostly likely isn’t a two- or three-prayer thing either. The process of ‘finding God’ is impactful: you can’t find Him and remain the same. Therefore, a likely byproduct of this encounter is a change in your prayer request or clarity about His will towards it. In essence, if your ‘why’ for prayer is to draw close to Him, you’ll gain Him and the answer to your prayer. On the other hand, if it’s because of any of the reasons above, there’s no guarantee you’ll get either.
When you shift from wanting a quick answer, to wanting to find Him – prayer becomes a joy, not a chore. He won’t be able to get rid of you!
- Ascertain your motive for prayer – if your why isn’t to draw closer to Him, make that an urgent prayer request before anything else.
- Set aside time for prayer – habits aren’t formed overnight; you need to be intentional about designating (and protecting) time to talk to Him. Again, length of time isn’t as important as sincerity and consistency. Try making it more special using relevant songs and scripture.
- Be transparent – as mentioned in A Present Parent, nothing you tell God is new. He already knows. But simply choosing to bring it to Him benefits you. Eloquent articulation matters far less than transparency. He wants you, not fancy words or Bible boffins! Just talk like you would with anyone else…
- Identify barriers to ‘wholeheartedness’ – Jeremiah 29:13 infers that unless you seek Him with your whole heart, you won’t find Him. You need to be aware of what’s holding you back. Do you think prayer is a pointless exercise? Is it easier to rely on yourself/others?
- Be accountable to someone – asking someone to check on you regarding your prayer life is great, but having someone to pray with and for you will be even better. Developing a strong prayer life isn’t easy, but it certainly helps when you have support. If you’re in need of someone, I’d be happy to help – send me a message on this page.
The Bible refers to many different prayer postures; as long as you’re praying reverently, it doesn’t matter how you do it. However, knowing how to pray doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll actually do it. Knowing why you pray is what builds a long-lasting relational prayer life.